October 13, 2017 / 5:40 PM / 6 days ago

Syrian fighter pilot on trial for espionage in Turkey returns to Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Syrian fighter pilot who was detained after crashing in southern Turkey in March has returned to Syria after a Turkish court released him on Friday, Syrian TV reported.

The pilot, Mehmet Sufhan, faced trial in Turkey charged with espionage and violating border security after he crashed in the border province of Hatay. He was found by a search team, treated at a local hospital and detained.

Turkish media said on Friday that a criminal court in Hatay had released him, but that legal proceedings were continuing.

Several hours later Syrian TV reported that Sufhan was back in Syria, saying his return was the result of “vigorous attempts and intensive efforts.”

It was not immediately clear whether Sufhan would come back to Turkey for his trial, which was set for Oct. 25, according to Sufhan’s attorney, Anil Cevahir Can. “Sufhan’s release will hopefully help rebuild bridges of friendship between Syria and Turkey,” Can added.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul and Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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