US, Turkey said to reach deal on release of American pastor

Gladys Abbott
October 12, 2018

The evangelical pastor was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in prison.

The case against the evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, triggered a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington with USA slapping tariffs against Turkey.

He was swept up in the wave of arrests that followed the botched military coup in 2016, during which tens of thousands of people - including artists, intellectuals and ordinary Turks - were detained. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at the time that the usa was prepared to add more sanctions if Brunson wasn't released. He denies the claims against him made by Turkish officials.

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 new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations.

Brunson, who sat alone in front of a panel of judges and the state prosecutor, was also allowed to speak following each witness's testimony.

"We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination", he said. A person involved in efforts to free Andrew Brunson says the 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina could... "We're hopeful but it's a fluid situation", said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday, in response to a question about NBC's report, that they "don't have any further information" on whether Brunson will be released and are not aware of any such deal.

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It had moved Brunson from prison to house arrest in July.

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

Turkey and the US have faced rocky relations following Washington's imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup. The indictment against Brunson quotes a witness as saying congregants at Brunson's Resurrection Church in Izmir province wore the "flags and pennants of the PKK terrorist organization".

The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him.

The U.S. chargé d'affaires to Turkey, Jeffrey M. Hovenier, was also in the courtroom.

Brunson left his house early on Friday to the hearing amid reports he could be released. According to AFP, the court also ruled in favor of lifting his house arrest and the travel ban on the USA citizen.

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