USA pastor held in Turkey may be released under secret deal

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

Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

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, USA news outlets reported on Tuesday.

Two unnamed senior administration officials and a third person briefed told NBC that the US and Turkey reached a deal to secure Mr. Brunson's return home. Despite being moved to house arrest in July after increasing pressure from the USA government, the pastor remains under the control of the authorities.

One of the many areas of friction between Turkey and the United States may finally be resolved, according to a report on Thursday, after a secret deal was apparently stuck for the release of a U.S. citizen who has been detained for two years.

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.

The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him. NBC reported the news, citing the White House sources who added that the United States will ease economic pressure on Turkey as part of the deal. Leaked reports by Turkish officials allege the Saudis lured Khashoggi to its Istanbul consulate, where they then murdered him and disposed of his dismembered body.

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

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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.

The American pastor is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

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

"We remain hopeful that with the court proceeding tomorrow that Turkey will see its way clear and free this good man who is guilty of nothing and who has been incarcerated for several years in Turkey unjustly", Pence said.

Brunson has been accused of backing outlawed Kurdish rebels and the network led by USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. 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.

The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited. Trump then authorized a doubling of existing USA steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey.

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