A Turkish court has ruled for the release of an American pastor at the heart of a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States after a hearing on Friday (Oct. 12) during which key witnesses flipped and the prosecution softened, Hurriyet reported.
The fourth hearing against Andrew Brunson began at 10:40 a.m. in a prison complex in the Aliaga district of the coastal city of İzmir, ending at 4:28 p.m. with the court’s ruling.
The evangelical pastor was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in prison.
After an eventful hearing, the court sentenced Brunson to three years and one month in prison for aiding a terrorist organization, while ruling for his release from house arrest pending appeals procedures.
The pastor will also be free to leave Turkey if he wants, as the court did not adopt a travel ban.
The ruling was partly in line with the prosecution’s final case, which demanded the court to lift “precautionary judicial measures” while asking for a 10-year sentence.
The flipping of key witnesses in the last hearing was seen as surprising by some observers, like the relatively softened stance of the prosecution.
In the first part of the hearing that took place until the noon break, three witnesses of the prosecution, as well as a witness of the defense, testified.
The pastor was imprisoned for nearly two years before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.