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The Latest: Trump welcomes freed pastor to Oval Office

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Andrew Brunson, the American pastor freed after nearly two years of detention in Turkey (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is welcoming the U.S. return of just-freed American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Trump and Brunson are meeting in the Oval Office on Saturday, hours after the North Carolina native arrived back on U.S. soil.

Trump tells Brunson “we’ve been negotiating long and hard” for his release and that “we do not pay ransom in this country.”

A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison. But the court released the 50-year-old evangelical pastor because he had already spent nearly two years in detention. Hours later, Brunson was flown out of Turkey – his home for more than two decades.

He was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for a checkup before arriving in Washington.

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12:30 p.m.

Andrew Brunson is back in the United States after nearly two years of detention in Turkey.

Word about the just-freed American pastor comes from Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Perkins tweets that he’s landed at a military base outside Washington with Brunson and his wife, Norine.

The White House later confirmed his arrival on U.S. soil.

Perkins says “they are thankful to be safely home in the USA.”

A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of having links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison. But the 50-year-old evangelical pastor was released because he had already spent nearly two years in detention.

Brunson is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Saturday afternoon.

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10:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he’ll meet with Andrew Brunson, the American pastor just released from Turkey, in the Oval Office on Saturday afternoon.

Trump says on Twitter that it’ll be “wonderful to see and meet” Brunson. Trump says Brunson is a “great Christian who has been through such a tough experience.”

A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson on terrorism charges but sentenced him to time served and freed him from house arrest to return to the U.S.

The North Carolina native left Turkey on Friday for a stop at a U.S. military hospital in Germany before Saturday’s meeting with Trump at the White House.

Trump also is thanking Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn). He had resisted earlier U.S. demands that Brunson be released.

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9:35 a.m.

Andrew Brunson, the American pastor freed after nearly two years of detention in Turkey, is on his “final leg home” after a short stay in Germany.

That’s according to a tweet from Tony Perkins, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and who had monitored Brunson’s trial.

Brunson had flown to Germany on Friday for a medical checkup at a U.S. military hospital, and now awaiting him in the U.S. is expected White House meeting later Saturday with President Donald trump.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, tweets that he presented Brunson and his wife with an American flag when they arrived in Germany, and the diplomat says Brunson “immediately kissed it.”

Brunson was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, and faced up to 35 years in jail. A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of only the terrorism charges, and the government then freed the evangelical pastor.

The North Carolina native had rejected the charges and strongly maintained his innocence.

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2:25 a.m.

An American pastor freed after nearly two years of detention in Turkey is expected to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

Andrew Brunson is due to arrive at a U.S. military base near Washington around noon Saturday after stopping in Germany for a medical checkup.

The 50-year-old North Carolina native was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, and faced up to 35 years in jail. A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of only the terrorism charges, and the government then freed the evangelical pastor to return home.

Brunson had rejected the charges and strongly maintained his innocence.




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