A Turkish court decided on Friday to release the US citizen Andrew Brunson, detained for two years in Turkey on charges of terrorism and espionage. The case against this evangelical pastor had damaged relations between Washington and Ankara to the point of leading US President Donald Trump to issue sanctions against Turkey.
Finally, after a secret agreement between the two countries, the Turkish Justice sentenced him to 3 years and one month in prison but, since he has decreed his release until the appeals are resolved and the prohibition on his trip abroad has been lifted, He expects to return to the US in the coming days.
Never has the Turkish economy been so aware of a priest. So tied is its future to the Brunson case that, in the CNN-Turkey network’s morning program, a commentator joked that the currency quote was “Brunson-dollar parity”.
PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 12 October 2018
And, since August, when President Donald Trump was put between eyebrows and remove the evangelical pastor from his Turkish enclosure at all costs and harshly attacked Turkey, the Turkish lira entered a spiral of depreciation (came to lose a 30% of its value in two weeks). It was a political case, but it was the coup de grace for an economy that is going through serious difficulties. Hence, this Friday, the whole country held their breath at the beginning of the trial.
The auguries were good lira has appreciated 5% so far this week, given the rumors that there was an agreement between the United States and Turkey to free Brunson. As much as the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeated over and over again that the fate of the priest “is in the hands of an independent court”, almost no one doubts that the Turkish Justice is heading towards where the government’s wind blows .
Not in vain, during the session – the fourth of the Brunson trial – the prosecution has reduced its condemning demands from 35 to 10 years in prison and has asked the court to lift the precautionary measures against the pastor, who has served as a Protestant missionary during two decades in the coastal town of Izmir.
His arrest, following the failed coup detat of July 2016, was based on the fact that Brunson had worked for the CIA during the coup, stole military secrets and cooperated, at the same time, with the Kurdish armed group PKK – considered a terrorist by Turkey, the EU and the USA- and with the Islamic brotherhood of Fetula Gülen , once an ally of Erdogan, but currently enemy number oneof the Government, which accuses her of the military uprising. However, the defense argued that the accusatory evidence was very weak and based on the statements of some witnesses whose identity was kept secret.
Coincidentally, three of the main witnesses who had sustained the accusations against Brunson have recanted this Friday from them.
One of the witnesses, contrary to what has been said in previous hearings, has said that she has never before heard that in the clinic of a friend of Brunson, members of the PKK were treated. Another has retracted his accusation that a Syrian from Brunson’s congregation was making bombs and another has acknowledged that, when he claimed to have seen members of the Guild brotherhood in the pastor’s church, he spoke only of hearsay.
Many believe that Brunson, who arrived at Izmir airport with his wife to travel to the United States tonight, has been used as a hostage to extradite Gulen, who has resided in Pennsylvania for two decades. “They say we give them to the pastor. You also have a cleric.
Give it to us and we will judge [Brunson] and we will give it back to you, “Erdogan said last year, putting the cards on the table. The problem is that he did not have the aggressive policy of Trump or that the US president was willing to put Turkey on the ropes in order to achieve the release of Brunson.
On Thursday, the US network NBC reported that a “secret agreement” had been reached between Ankara and Washington to “release him after withdrawing certain charges” in exchange for “easing economic pressure on Turkey.” The first part of the agreement has been met in detail, now the second is expected. “If [Brunson] is released and that improves the relations between Turkey and the US, the pressure for capital flight could decrease,” says an analysis by the firm
The release is a diplomatic triumph for Trump in order to mobilize the evangelist vote in the November legislative elections, ultraconservative circles that have closely followed the Brunson case and are well connected with Vice President Mike Pence.
In fact, several commentators have accused Trump that he has not shown so much interest or pressure to release other detainees in Turkey, such as NASA scientist Serkan Gölge (of dual Turkish nationality) or the three employees of US diplomatic legations still under arrest. In addition to these four cases, there are other Americans in Turkish prisons