American Pastor Detained In Turkey For Two Years May Be Freed Soon

NBC News: US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal

The Trump administration is hopeful that American pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial in Turkey could be freed at a Friday court hearing, but the State Department said it was unaware of any deal with the Turkish government for his release.

"I'm not able to confirm anything for you other than to say that President's made clear, our administration's made very clear, that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free and back home in the United States with his family and with his church", he said.

Turkey arrested Mr. Brunson on terrorism charges after accusing him of having a hand in the failed 2016 military coup.

A previous deal to get Brunson freed collapsed in July when a Turkish court chose to place the American pastor under house arrest.

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

US pastor Andrew Brunson, accompanied by Turkish security officers, arrives at Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in a vehicle in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018. He is accused of working to convert Kurds to Christianity to destabilize Turkey.

While Brunson's lawyer, Haravut, said he was optimistic about Friday's hearing, he told Yahoo News he was not aware of any deal securing Brunson's release.

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

Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

The trial against an American pastor at the heart of a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States has resumed in Turkey.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has led a sustained diplomatic effort to have the pastor released, recently declared that Brunson "should have been released last month", and that he expects "he could be released this month", according to the Financial Times.

"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.

Turkey and the US have faced rocky relations following Washington's imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention. Trump then authorized a doubling of existing USA steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey.

The case against Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has become the flashpoint in a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington, triggering USA tariffs and sanctions against Turkey and condemnation from President Donald Trump. "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared.

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