Freed pastor Brunson leaves Turkey, due in U.S. Saturday

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Andrew Brunson has been on house arrest since leaving prison due to poor health in July this year.

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was imprisoned for almost two years after being detained in October 2016.

The evangelical pastor was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in prison.

The Turkish government released Friday an American Protestant pastor who spent 21 months in jail and two under house arrest, following persistent pressure from, and a secret deal with, the Trump administration.

The decision ended a tense diplomatic standoff between the USA and Turkey that began after Brunson's October 2016 arrest on terror and treason charges.

"I am an innocent human being", Brunson told the court near the city of Izmir, where he led a church he established and tended to for almost a decade.

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson.

"A lot of factors played into this", Tillis said, adding the United States was trying to "get back to a point of a positive relationship" with Turkey.

Another witness, who was unidentified, said he had never seen the members of which the Turkish authorities label as FETÖ in a prayer house by Brunson. Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

Earlier, witnesses told the court that testimonies attributed to them against the pastor were inaccurate, heightening expectations that Brunson could be released and returned to the United States.

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Brunson was not the only American behind bars in Turkey on questionable charges.

Brunson's wife, Norine, looked on from the visitors' area. In his own words today: "This is the day our family has been praying for - I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States".

Pence also tweeted about Brunson's release.

After the ruling, Mr Brunson's lawyer told reporters the pastor was likely to leave Turkey.

Ankara blames Gulenists for the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime. Tilis also thanked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and fellow Sens. His arrest two years ago led to U.S. tariffs against Turkey and drew condemnation from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan, meanwhile, had said Turkey won't extradite anyone to the US until USA extradites Gulen.

"We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination", Brunson said, according to the AP. Details around the night of the coup remain complex but in the months following more than 50,000 people were arrested.

"We are grateful for the President's commitment and efforts in securing my release", Brunson said in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working to secure his release.

He was charged with ties to two groups Turkey considers terrorist organizations: A Kurdish separatist group called the PKK that the USA has also designated a terrorist organization, and the Gulenists, a political-religious movement led by exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of fomenting a 2016 failed coup attempt.