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Andrew Brunson on way back to US and due to meet Trump

by Cara Bentley

Hours after his trial, Andrew Brunson, 50, was transported to Izmir's airport and flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for more than two decades and worked at Izmir Resurrection Church. 

"I love Jesus. I love Turkey," Brunson told the court during Friday's hearing.

He tearfully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court decision.

He is expected in America on Saturday, with Trump saying he will meet him in the Oval office. Fox News showed a photo of him kissing the American flag at a flight stop in Germany. 

Brunson, from North Carolina, worked at the small church in Turkey for over 20 years until he was arrested in 2016. 

As part of a government crackdown, he was among thousands of journalists, civil servants and academics who were suspected of wanting to overthrow the government in a coup. 

Pastor Brunson, his wife and Christian freedom charities have been campaigning for his release ever since. 

On Friday, his trial in Izmir did convict him for terror charges and sentenced him to over three years in prison but the court decided to release him as he had already served two years in detention and an earlier charge of espionage was dropped.

New York City Pastor Bill Devlin, who has attended all four of Brunson's hearings, said that the witnesses called by the prosecution were "bogus witnesses" who only provided second or even third-hand accounts of claims against Brunson.

The release of Brunson was a diplomatic triumph for Trump, who is counting on the support of evangelical Christians for Republican candidates ahead of congressional elections in November.

He celebrated the news at an Ohio rally on Friday, saying: "Earlier today we secured the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson". He added that he was flying, via Germany and "He's coming to Washington, DC, tomorrow, and we'll say hello,"

"He went through a lot. You know all about Pastor Brunson ... and he's on his way back."

His case has had international diplomacy implications, causing tensions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Trump, retaliatory sanctions and talks of deals to free Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey think orchestrated the coup. 

Nikki Haley, who recently announced she will be stepping down as US Ambassador to the UN, tweeted her support:

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