Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

USA pastor held in Turkey may be released under secret deal

USA pastor held in Turkey may be released under secret deal

On Thursday both The Washington Post and NBC News reported a deal had been reached between the USA and Turkey for Mr Brunson's release, citing unnamed sources.

Senior White House officials told NBC News they believe that charges against Brunson will be dropped at his next hearing, set for Friday.

"President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the USA with his family and his church", added Pence, a devout Christian who has worked to free Brunson for the last two years. Despite being moved to house arrest in July after increasing pressure from the USA government, the pastor remains under the control of the authorities.

A senior Trump administration official said, however, that the administration is "not fully confident" Turkey will oblige by the terms of the agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in late September that Brunson "could be released this month" and indicated again on Wednesday that he could be released soon.

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

If Turkey follows through on the purported agreement, that economic pressure will be eased, the USA officials told NBC News. "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".

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But amid the frenzied diplomatic crisis that has followed Khashoggi's disappearance, releasing Brunson now could afford Turkey much-needed leverage from the challenging Saudi Arabia.

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. "Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges ..."

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.

"This is a judiciary matter", Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters at the time.

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

"We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext", Erdogan said.

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.

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