Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

United States pastor Brunson back in Turkish court for spying and terror trial

United States pastor Brunson back in Turkish court for spying and terror trial

USA officials believe they're on the verge of securing the release of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor jailed by Turkey on accusations he helped plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The secret deal is reportedly tied to a commitment to ease economic sanctions on Turkey and will lead to some charges being dropped against Brunson at his next court hearing Friday, sources told NBC News.

He added that the Trump administration had "made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Brunson is free". There was optimism several months ago, including from Brunson's attorney who said in a radio interview that he expected the pastor's release at the time, followed by a decision by Turkish authorities to continue to hold the usa citizen under house arrest while he faced trial.

American Pastor Andrew Brunson, whose detention in Turkey has sparked a tense standoff between Ankara and Washington, will likely be released following a hearing scheduled for Friday, according to his lawyer.

The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him.

The Post said the deal included lifting US sanctions, some already imposed and others threatened.

The officials cited in the report, however, cautioned that Ankara may not follow through on the purported deal.

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Jailed or held under house arrest since October 2016, Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

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

In a speech Wednesday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will - he and his wife will be able to return to the United States".

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent. "President Trump has had a focus on it, the administration's had a focus on it, and we're very hopeful that we'll see a good outcome before too long".

"The Khashoggi affair adds a new variable to a complex question the USA and Turkey had already found quite hard to solve".

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.

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. He has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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