American Pastor Detained In Turkey For Two Years Returns Home
An American pastor detained in Turkey for nearly two years on terror-related charges has returned to the United States, ending a saga that caused a major row between the NATO allies. Soon after his arrival, Andrew Brunson met at the White House with President Donald Trump, who seemed intent on smoothing over tensions by repeatedly thanking his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some analysts had accused the Turkish leader of using Brunson as a bargaining chip in order to secure the extradition of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erodgan accuses of orchestrating the failed 2016 coup. Both sides denied the existence of any quid pro quo deal, amid reports that President Trump had agreed to ease U.S. economic pressure on Ankara. Brunson had faced up to 35 years in jail for allegedly maintaining ties to Gulen as well as the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and, on Friday, a Turkish court convicted him of espionage and aiding terrorist groups. He was nevertheless ordered freed based on time served and good behavior. Some analysts are pointing to the development as evidence that Turkey is attempting to curry favor with Washington ahead of what could amount to a major spat with Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.