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US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal

12 October 2018

Brunson's possible release is part of a breakthrough deal between US and Turkish officials to drop charges against him, NBC reported Thursday, citing two senior White House officials.

"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.

Under a secret agreement reached with Turkey, the American pastor held on unsubstantiated charges related to the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to be released within days, the White House said Thursday.

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

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson.

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.

One of the witnesses, called "Sword" by prosecutors, claimed to have seen Brunson's wife at a Christian gathering in Western Turkey, according to testimony to prosecutors published by the Hurriyet newspaper. Charges against him, which he and the Trump administration have said are bogus, include contacts with the so-called coup mastermind, Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a permanent US resident living in Pennsylvania and a longtime political foe of Erdogan.

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

US President Donald Trump, at the time, tweeted that the US would impose sanctions on Turkey, adding: "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately".

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

However, US Vice-President Mike Pence would only say "we remain hopeful". "On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing and we don't know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict".

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".

The row with the USA 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. Trump then authorized a doubling of existing US steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey. He has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal