United States pastor detained in Turkey may soon be released

12 October, 2018, 11:55 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • NBC News: US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal

Pastor Andrew Brunson is expected to be released within the coming days, according to two senior Trump administration officials briefed on the matter.

Senior administration officials and a person briefed on the matter told NBC that, according to the agreement, "Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at his next court hearing, now scheduled for Friday".

In July, Turkey moved Brunson from prison to house arrest because of health issues.

A Turkish court will rule on Friday on the detention of Andrew Craig Brunson - a United States pastor who is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Washington and Ankara.

Brunson, a Christian preacher from North Carolina, became the center of a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington after Turkey jailed him on terrorism charges. NBC reported the news, citing the White House sources who added that the USA will ease economic pressure on Turkey as part of the deal.

In a Middle East Eye report in late September, Turkish and U.S. officials said they were working to free Brunson.

The evangelical pastor is accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years if convicted.

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Mr Brunson is one of 20 Americans who were charged after the coup attempt two years ago, according to the New York Times.

"There is a will on both sides to solve this problem", said a U.S. diplomat. Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing USA officials and people close to the case.

"President Trump has had a focus on it, the administration has had a focus on it, and we're very hopeful that we'll see a good outcome before too long", Pompeo told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

Congress, where anti-Turkey sentiment over the Brunson case has been high, passed legislation freezing the sale of 100 F-35 aircraft to Turkey and giving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis - who opposed the freeze - until next month to prepare a report on how it would affect USA security and the defense industry. "We both want to leave this problem behind and focus on other areas to further our cooperation; especially Manbij, trade relations, and so on".

Brunson, whose possible release was first reported by NBC, has been held since 2016 and his imprisonment led to a rapid decline in relations between Turkey and the United States after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.

The row with the U.S. has exacerbated pressures on Turkey's lira, which has plunged more than 40 percent this year over concerns about Erdogan's influence on monetary policy, relations with Washington and the central bank's ability to rein in double-digit inflation.

The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.

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