American Pastor Detained in Turkey for Two Years May Soon Be Released

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

Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK - listed as a terrorist group by both the US and Turkey - and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016. He is one of thousands caught up in a wide-scale government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the Turkish government in July 2016. Washington says the charges are fabricated.

The prosecutor in American pastor Andrew Brunson's case demanded up to 10 years in prison for terror charges while asking judicial control measures to be lifted.

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.

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

In Washington, the Trump administration also expressed optimism about Brunson.

"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", the vice-president told reporters at a briefing.

A senior Trump administration official said, however, that the administration is "not fully confident" Turkey will oblige by the terms of the agreement.

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News of Brunson comes at a sensitive time, as Turkish police are investigating the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The court's decision failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Washington sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Saudi Arabia categorically denies the claims, but has faced an avalanche of global criticism for failing to provide any other explanation.

Brunson left his house early on Friday to the hearing amid reports he could be released.

"The Khashoggi affair adds a new variable to a complex question the USA and Turkey had already found quite hard to solve". Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

Another witness, who was unidentified, said he had never seen the members of which the Turkish authorities label as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) in a prayer house by Brunson.

The U.S. and Mr. Brunson deny he had anything to do with it.

The U.S. chargé d'affaires to Turkey, Jeffrey M. Hovenier, was also in the courtroom. "If [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan were to release Brunson tomorrow, it would not only reset his relationship with Trump, but also help align the USA with Turkey on the Khashoggi issue against the Saudis, killing two birds with one stone", he said.

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