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Freedom for an American Hostage


American pastor Andrew Brunson arrives at the Izmir International Airport CIP terminal to depart Turkey in Izmir, Turkey, Oct. 12.

American pastor Andrew Brunson arrives at the Izmir International Airport CIP terminal to depart Turkey in Izmir, Turkey, Oct. 12.


Photo:

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Two years after being unjustly imprisoned in Turkey, the American pastor Andrew Brunson is coming home, thanks in no small part to President Trump. On Friday a Turkish court convicted Mr. Brunson on unsupported terrorism charges, yet sentenced him to time served. This leniency was purportedly for good behavior, but more likely a response to U.S. pressure.

“This is the day our family has been praying for,” Mr. Brunson said. “My entire family thanks the President, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

Mr. Trump had repeatedly raised the evangelical pastor’s detention with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After that failed to produce results, the Treasury Department applied sanctions, under the Global Magnitsky Act, to the country’s justice and interior ministers. As the lira went into free fall this summer, Mr. Trump announced he planned to double tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel.

This was a hard line to take with a NATO ally. But Mr. Brunson never should have been arrested. Swept up in 2016 after a failed Turkish coup, he was essentially Mr. Erdogan’s hostage. The strongman suggested he would free the pastor if the U.S. handed over Fethullah Gulen, an imam in Pennsylvania whom Mr. Erdogan accuses, without credible evidence, of plotting the coup.

Credit to the White House for knowing when to ease up. After showing his seriousness, Mr. Trump softened his tone as Friday’s court date approached, giving Mr. Erdogan room to back down.

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Now the task is patching up relations with Turkey. U.S. officials have said Mr. Erdogan is also unjustly holding NASA scientist Serkan Golge, as well as employees of America’s diplomatic mission. Washington and Ankara have common interests in the Middle East, such as pushing Iran out of Syria. Perhaps collaborating on these matters will be easier tomorrow. But today, as Americans reflect on the Brunson family’s ordeal, it’s enough to welcome a persecuted pastor home.



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