U.S. pastor back on trial in Turkey as calls grow for release
12 October, 2018, 11:53 | Author: Myra Gill
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.
NBC cited sources as saying that under an agreement US officials reached recently with Turkey, Brunson would be released after certain charges against him were dropped at his next court hearing.
Pastor Brunson, an evangelical from North Carolina, was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and was accused, without any evidence, of helping terrorist groups and of espionage.
According to the NBC report, Trump administration officials aren't "fully confident" that Turkey will actually go through with the agreement.
Brunson is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Friday.
The officials cited in the report, however, cautioned that Ankara may not follow through on the purported deal.
Brunson is under house arrest but could get up to 35 years in prison if convicted on charges that his lawyers say are baseless.
Turkish and American officials have made several attempts to reach a deal to release Brunson, but negotiations repeatedly failed over Turkey's rogue economic policy and disagreement over strategy in Syria.
However, Pompeo said in a speech Wednesday to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America he was "very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson will, he and his wife will be able to return to the United States". "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". "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".
Political tensions between the two countries sparked worries in the markets after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use economic pressure to secure Brunson's release.
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". That was echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who declined to confirm any deal, but voiced hope Brunson would be released.
The row with the United States has exacerbated pressures on Turkey's lira, which has plunged more than 40 percent this year over concerns about Erdogan's influence on monetary policy, relations with Washington and the central bank's ability to rein in double-digit inflation. "We both want to leave this problem behind and focus on other areas to further our cooperation; especially Manbij, trade relations, and so on".
The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.
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