Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

Lamar Ellis
October 12, 2018

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.

NBC cited sources as saying that under an agreement USA officials reached recently with Turkey, Brunson would be released after certain charges against him were dropped at his next court hearing.

"We continue to believe Pastor Brunson is innocent and the hearing on Friday is another opportunity for the Turkish judicial system to free an American citizen", a senior administration official told NBC News.

Brunson was among thousands of people arrested in Turkey in police sweeps following a failed July 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Finally, after an excruciatingly long wait of nearly two years, it appears the incarceration of United States pastor Andrew Brunson will finally come to an end.

Those familiar with the deal told NBC that "it includes a commitment by the U.S.to ease economic pressure on Turkey".

The court's decision failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Washington sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.

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

He faces a possible sentence of up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

Andrew Craig Brunson, 50, who is backed by the White House in his contention the charges have been manufactured for political purposes, was arrested in December 2016 after serving more than two decades in Turkey.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson, he and his wife, will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said in response to a question as he accepted an award from a pro-Israel group. Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing US officials and people close to the case. "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".

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". "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". "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared.

Turkey wants the United States to agree to his extradition.

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