Turkey could release Pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday

Andrew Cummings
October 12, 2018

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.

"President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the USA with his family and his church".

Brunson, a missionary who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was arrested in December 2016 and accused of backing a coup attempt that July against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A Turkish court sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years in prison, stating that he had already served time during the trial since his arrest in 2016.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted US demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent.

If the pastor remains under Turkish arrest, ties between Ankara and Washington will worsen and Erdogan faces the prospect of more sanctions, not just for Brunson but for Turkey's recent purchase of Russian S400 defense missiles.

The fourth hearing against Andrew Brunson began at 10:40 a.m.in a prison complex in the Aliağa district of the coastal city of İzmir, ending at 4:28 p.m. with the court's ruling.

Prosecutors accuse Brunson of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups, linking him to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a US -based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

Vice President Pence took a particular interest in Brunson's case and has helped mobilize Trump's evangelical political base to the cause.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson, he and his wife, will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said in response to a question as he accepted an award from a pro-Israel group.

On Thursday, the US State Department said it wasn't aware of any deal.

The deal, they said, would include the lifting of USA sanctions in exchange for reduced charges that would allow Brunson to either be sentenced for time served or serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

The evangelical pastor is accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

The source cautioned that United States officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement, which appears to now be in place with Brunson due to appear before a Turkish court on Friday. Brunson has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

Other reports by iNewsToday