Friday, 16 November, 2018

Trial of U.S. pastor Brunson resumes in western Turkey

NBC News: US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson Reportedly Set to be Released by Turkish Government
Orlando Vargas | 12 October, 2018, 17:09

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.

A little later on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters, "I am not aware of any such deal".

The prosecutor asked the court to end the house arrest and foreign travel ban of Brunson, raising the prospect he could be freed after two years of detention.

According to the NBC report, Trump administration officials aren't "fully confident" that Turkey will actually go through with the agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because officials had not yet reached a final agreement on the release and it could still fall through.

Relations have not been good between the United States and Turkey, with Brunson becoming caught up in a protracted political feud. "It is time that we close this ugly chapter in our relations".

Brunson, whose possible release was first reported by NBC, has been held since 2016 and his imprisonment led to a rapid decline in relations between Turkey and the USA after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.

A previous deal to get Brunson freed collapsed in July when a Turkish court made a decision to place the American pastor under house arrest.

A panel of judges is expected to reach an interim ruling later Friday. "Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges ..."

The Brunson case has grown into the biggest of several disputes between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and has been one of the factors in a 40 percent slide in value of the Turkish lira this year.

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Sources told NBC that negotiations regarding Brunson's release between Turkish and USA officials - which included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton - were "advanced in discussions" in September at the UN General Assembly.

Senior White House officials told NBC News they believe that charges against Brunson will be dropped at his next hearing, set for Friday.

"Our strategic partnership, which has gone through difficulties so many times, will overcome this turbulent period", Erdogan said during an address at an investment conference held by the Turkey-US Business Council, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

He was sentenced to three years in prison but will not serve time as he had already spent two years in jail.

The Turkish lira firmed on the report.

Despite pressure from the Trump administration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that he has no sway over the judiciary and that the courts will decide on Brunson's fate.

A Turkish court has convicted an American pastor at the center of a Turkish-American diplomatic dispute of terror charges, but has released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave Turkey.

He has denied the accusations. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.

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