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Health concern moves U.S. pastor to house arrest in Turkey

By Danielle Haynes
Health concern moves U.S. pastor to house arrest in Turkey
U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson left a Turkish prison Wednesday to be placed under house arrest. File Photo courtesy DEPO/EPA-EFE

July 25 (UPI) -- A Turkish court on Wednesday allowed an American pastor who faces terrorism charges to be transferred from jail to house arrest, due to health concerns.

The Second Heavy Penal Court in the western province of ─░zmir released Andrew Brunson, but said he may not leave his house or the country.

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Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, is accused of aiding the the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a militant separatist group, and supporting U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Authorities arrested him in 2016 after a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that resulted in more than 50,000 arrests.

Brunson left the prison around 5:30 p.m., guided by a police escort.

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Earlier this month, the court rejected Brunson's request for release.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he welcomed the news of Brunson's move to house arrest, but said it was not enough.

"We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner," Pompeo said.

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In April, President Donald Trump called for Brunson's release.

"Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason," Trump tweeted. "They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!"

Brunson's attorney, Cem Halavurt, said the charges against Brunson are "unfounded" and based on secret informants.

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"I've never done anything against Turkey," Brunson said in court. "I love Turkey. I've been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out."

Ed Adamczyk contributed to this report.

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