Turkish authorities released American pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday, two years after detaining him on terrorism charges. The North Carolinian Evangelical preacher was reportedly put on a flight to Germany, and will be medically evaluated there before returning home to the U.S.
Brunson was jailed in 2016 on charges that he aided a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His wife, Norine, was captured with him but released 13 days later. He was moved to house arrest in July.
President Trump announced Brunson’s return on Friday.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding later, “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”
Brunson’s profile grew after his capture, which angered Christians in the U.S. and abroad and became a running theme in Trump’s speeches. Vice President Mike Pence had personally asked Erdogan for the pastor’s release, and Turkey’s failure to comply led the Trump administration to impose economic sanctions on the country in August.
“The release of pastor Andrew Brunson is an answer to the prayers of millions of Christians around the world,” Russell Moore, director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote on Twitter. “We pray that this crisis will remind us to continue to pray for those imprisoned by oppressive regimes around the world because of their religious faith.”
“We celebrate along with the millions of Americans who have been praying for Pastor Brunson’s release,” Tony Perkins of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a statement. “President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Pompeo are to be commended for their resolve, not only in defending Pastor Brunson but in defending the fundamental freedom of all people in all places.”