US pastor not freed due to pressure: Turkey's Celik

Ruling AK Party spokesman rebuffs claims that Turkish institutions acted due to threats, pressure to free Andrew Brunson

US pastor not freed due to pressure: Turkey's Celik

Turkey’s release yesterday of a U.S. pastor was not due to any outside pressure but the result of the processes of the independent Turkish judiciary, said the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s spokesman on Saturday. 

“Despite these impositions and threats" over the case, "none of the Republic of Turkey’s institutions including” the presidency took any action on the case of Andrew Brunson due to pressure, Omer Celik told reporters in the southern province of Adana.  

“At this stage, the judicial process has been completed,” he added.   

He rebuffed critics’ claims that Brunson was freed due to outside pressure, saying such critics had “not followed the process closely.”   

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 and charged in the Aegean province of Izmir with being a member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind a defeated coup earlier that year. 

After being transferred from jail to house arrest this July, Brunson on Friday was sentenced to just over three years in prison, but released due to time served and his good behavior in custody.

The charges against him included spying for both FETO and the PKK, a group recognized as terrorist by the U.S. and EU which is responsible for some 40,000 deaths in Turkey, including women and children.