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American Pastor Flying Back To U.S. After Release From Turkish Custody

U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson arrives at his home after his trial in Izmir on on October 12.

An American evangelical pastor held for two years in Turkey was expected to arrive in the United States on October 13, a day after a Turkish court ordered his release, despite sentencing him to three years in prison on terrorism-related charges.

Andrew Brunson left Turkey on a U.S. military plane and was en route to the United States early on October 13 after the aircraft made a brief stopover in Germany for refueling.

President Donald Trump said he'll meet with Brunson in the Oval Office later on October 13.

Trump said on Twitter that it'll be "wonderful to see and meet" Brunson. He described Brunson as a "great Christian who has been through such a tough experience."

On October 12, a court in western Turkey convicted Brunson on terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to three years in prison. But the court ordered his release after taking into account time he had already served while awaiting trial and his good conduct.

Brunson's detention since October 2016 caused a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Ankara -- leading the United States in August to impose sanctions on its NATO ally, double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, and withhold delivery of 100 F-35 fighter jets.

He was charged with links to Kurdish militants and the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Ankara for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Brunson, who had lived in Turkey for more than two decades, rejects the charges.

Washington says he was unjustly held as part of a wide-scale crackdown on political opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that followed the failed coup.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters. and AFP