A Turkish judge has ruled in favor of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been the center of a diplomatic standoff between the US and Turkey, and has been ordered to be freed from house arrest.
The standoff began following Brunson’s arrest in 2016 where he was charged with terror and espionage-related crimes after Turkey underwent a failed coup attempt a few months earlier.
Prosecutors accused Bronson of conspiring with Kurdish militants and US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is suspected to have orchestrated the attempted coup.
Brunson appeared before the court for his fourth hearing, pleading that he is “an innocent man.”
“I love Jesus, I love Turkey,” said Brunson, who hails from North Carolina. “We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination.”
Brunson was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months before finally being charged for being connected to the failed coup.
The US rejected the accusations against Brunson as well. After increased pressure from the US, Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July.
President Donald Trump and his administration persistently lobbied for Brunson’s release, including slapping Turkey with a variety of sanctions against Turkish officials and goods, causing Turkish currency to take a nosedive.
Brunson was not the only American citizen behind bars for questionable charges in Turkey. Several workers from the United States Embassy, NASA scientist Serkan Golge, and several Turkish-American citizens are still in prison and accused of connections with the Gulen coup attempt.