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US Pastor Jailed in Turkey Put Under House Arrest, Turkish TV Reports


U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey, July 25, 2018.

An American pastor who has been jailed in Turkey on terrorism and espionage charges was put under house arrest Wednesday, live footage from Turkish broadcasters showed.

The two-year detention of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has strained relations between Turkey and the U.S., both NATO allies.

Hours after a court ruled Brunson be transferred from jail to house arrest, Turkish broadcasters DHA and NTV showed Brunson being escorted from prison in the coastal city of Izmir and departing shortly thereafter in a convoy of vehicles.

Brunson's transfer came one week after a court inside a prison complex in the western Turkish town of Aliaga ruled to keep Brunson in detention while he is tried. The court dismissed Brunson's attorney's request for Brunson to be freed pending the outcome of the trial, which was adjourned until October 12.

Brunson was indicted on charges of helping a network led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in addition to supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The 50-year-old pastor, who denies the charges, could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter that Brunson's transfer was "long overdue news," but added the U.S. expects Ankara to do more.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release. Last week, Trump tweeted that Brunson's detention is "a total disgrace" and added, "He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!"

Brunson is among the tens of thousands of people Erdogan detained on similar charges during the state of emergency he declared following the failed coup.

The state of emergency ended July 18, but the Turkish legislature passed a new "anti-terror" law Wednesday that gives authorities more power to detain suspects and restore public order.