US 'hopeful' on pastor's release, unaware of a deal with Turkey

US pastor Andrew Brunson

According to NBC News, North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson will be released by the Turkish government and returned to the United States after years in detention for allegedly helping terrorist groups.

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.

"I'm not able to confirm anything for you other than to say that President's made clear, our administration's made very clear, that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free and back home in the United States with his family and with his church", he said.

The pastor was imprisoned for almost two years before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

State Department officials denied there had been any agreement, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was "hopeful" that Turkey would release him soon.

WND reported last week Brunson's lawyer petitioned Turkey's highest court to release the pastor from house arrest.

One of the witnesses, called "Sword" by prosecutors, claimed to have seen Brunson's wife at a Christian gathering in Western Turkey, according to testimony to prosecutors published by the Hurriyet newspaper. NBC reported the news, citing the White House sources who added that the USA will ease economic pressure on Turkey as part of the deal.

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

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

He has been forced to remain in Turkey for the past two years.

"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. Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing USA officials and people close to the case.

Mr Brunson is a long-term resident in Turkey.

At the beginning of August, the U.S. Treasury slapped hefty economic sanctions upon two Turkish officials who were largely responsible for the jailing of an American missionary.

The row with the USA 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.

He blames Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for the attempt, but Mr Gulen denies any involvement.

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