Andrew Brunson: Hopes rise as United States pastor returns to court

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2018

On Thursday both The Washington Post and NBC News reported a deal had been reached between the U.S. and Turkey for Mr Brunson's release, citing unnamed sources.

Under an agreement senior Trump administration officials recently reached with Turkey, Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at his next court hearing, now scheduled for Friday, the senior administration officials and a person briefed on the matter said.

In a negotiated deal that includes the lifting of USA sanctions - both threatened and implemented - against Turkey, charges against the Rev. Andrew Brunson are to be reduced to allow him to be sentenced to time already served, or to be allowed to serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

Brunson was taken from his house - where he had been under house arrest since July 25 - under strict security measures and brought to the prison and courthouse complex in Aliağa district for the trial.

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.

Brunson is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Friday. NBC reported the news, citing the White House sources who added that the U.S. will ease economic pressure on Turkey as part of the deal.

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

Mr Brunson is one of 20 Americans who were charged after the coup attempt two years ago, according to the New York Times.

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"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.

After last summer's failed agreement, Trump levied sanctions on two senior Turkish cabinet ministers, and Erdogan reciprocated against senior US officials.

"There is a will on both sides to solve this problem", said a United States diplomat. That was echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who declined to confirm any deal, but voiced hope Brunson would be released.

"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.

Mr Brunson is a long-term resident in Turkey.

More than 50,000 people were arrested in Turkey in President Erdogan's huge post-coup crackdown.

"The Khashoggi affair adds a new variable to a complex question the USA and Turkey had already found quite hard to solve".

He has denied the accusations.

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