Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

United States pastor detained in Turkey may soon be released

United States pastor detained in Turkey may soon be released

The United States and Turkey have quietly agreed to a deal that involves the release of jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, U.S. news outlets reported on Tuesday.

News reports, citing senior administration officials and an individual briefed on the matter, that "under an agreement recently reached with Turkey, Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at his next court hearing".

The American pastor Andrew Brunson could be released in Turkey on Friday nearly two years after his arrest, following secret talks between Washington and Ankara.

Brunson has been under arrest since December 2016 and under house arrest since July.

According to the NBC report, Trump administration officials aren't "fully confident" that Turkey will actually go through with the agreement.

In August, a Turkish court rejected an appeal for Brunson's release, leading to economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump and souring relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Brunson is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Friday. "The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey's economy".

Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson's release would "help improve U.S. -Turkey relations for the long-term".

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Turkish prosecutors had sought a 35-year sentence for Brunson, who they accused of spying and supporting terrorists under the cover of humanitarian aid and interfaith dialogue.

Late on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said releasing Brunson would be the right thing for Turkey to do.

Brunson has been held for nearly two years trumped-up on wide-ranging charges of conspiring to overthrow the Turkish government.

The deal, they said, would include the lifting of USA sanctions in exchange for reduced charges that would allow Brunson to either be sentenced for time served or serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

Despite pressure from the Trump administration, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that he has no sway over the judiciary and that the courts will decide on Brunson's fate.

Last week, Erdogan accused the Trump administration of using Brunson as a pretext for sanctions, charging the pastor has "dark ties to terror groups, Bloomberg reported".

The source cautioned that USA officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement, which appears to now be in place with Brunson due to appear before a Turkish court on Friday.

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