Friday, 14 December, 2018

Andrew Brunson: Hopes rising as US pastor due to court

American pastor whose arrest for treason enraged Trump is due in court and could be released TODAY American Pastor Back in Court for Spying and Terror Trial
Patty Aguilar | 12 October, 2018, 11:51

The Trump administration is hopeful that American pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial in Turkey could be freed at a Friday court hearing, but the State Department said it was unaware of any deal with the Turkish government for his release.

Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK - listed as a terrorist group by both the USA and Turkey - and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) - the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016.

In July, Turkey moved Brunson from prison to house arrest because of health issues.

The agreement - part of which was negotiated at last month's U.N. General Assembly meeting, attended by President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - will either lead to Brunson's immediate release Friday, or his freeing within a few days, said officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the still-secret arrangement.

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

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

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.

A Turkish official declined to comment on the deal, citing the ongoing judicial process.

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An American pastor may soon be released after two years of captivity in Turkey.

"I am very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson will, he and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said at an event Wednesday.

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent.

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

"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", Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday.

"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.

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

More than 50,000 people were arrested in Turkey in President Erdogan's huge post-coup crackdown. "We both want to leave this problem behind and focus on other areas to further our cooperation; especially Manbij, trade relations, and so on".

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