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North Carolina Pastor Released From Turkish Jail, Placed Under House Arrest

Pastor Andrew Brunson

A North Carolina pastor who has been in Turkish custody for nearly two years on terror and espionage charges will be put under house arrest as his trial continues.

Turkey's official news agency said Wednesday that Pastor Craig Brunson from Black Mountain will be released from the Turkish jail and be kept under house arrest while his trial continues. The transfer is due to unspecified "health problems," the news agency said.

Brunson was arrested in October 2016 following a failed coup attempt. He was alleged to have connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK , which is outlawed in Turkey. The Turkish government also alleged Brunson of having ties to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government blames for the unrest. Gulen, who has denied connections to the coup, lives in Pennsylvania.

Brunson strongly denies the charges against him. He faces up to 35 years in prison.

The case has strained ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States. President Donald J. Trump and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis have repeatedly demanded Brunson's release.

Tillis said in a statement Wednesday that releasing Brunson from prison is a “step in the right direction.”

“Today’s decision… will help alleviate some of the unacceptable hardship and anguish Pastor Brunson and his family have endured over the last 20 months,” Tillis said. “The Government of Turkey should now release Pastor Brunson and immediately return him to the United States, an action that would begin to restore the longstanding friendship between our two nations.”

According to AP reporting, the Turkish court said the pastor will be electronically monitored and barred from leaving his home. Brunson also isn’t allowed to leave Turkey. The case was adjourned until Oct. 12.

Mark Rumsey grew up in Kansas and got his first radio job at age 17 in the town of Abilene, where he announced easy-listening music played from vinyl record albums.