U.S. pastor detained in Turkey may soon be released
12 October, 2018, 17:08 | Author: Billie Castillo
Brunson has been accused of aiding terrorist groups as well as participation in a 2016 attempted coup.
Brunson, 50, was arrested in 2016 as part of the government crackdown in the wake of a failed coup bid. Turkey runs "a risk of the US Treasury announcing a substantial fine on Halkbank for violating US sanctions on Iran", its analysts said of the Turkish state-owned bank, adding that, "if Brunson is not released, the odds of Turkey receiving an Iran sanctions waiver from the US in early November for continued oil imports also go down significantly".
That hearing is now scheduled for Friday.
"There is a will on both sides to solve this problem", said a U.S. diplomat. In court on Friday, the prosecution is expected to introduce two new secret witnesses, but Brunson's lawyer Cem Halavurt said their testimonies were not germane to the case.
He has denied the accusations.
Brunson has been held for nearly two years trumped-up on wide-ranging charges of conspiring to overthrow the Turkish government. 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.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday, in response to a question about NBC's report, that they "don't have any further information" on whether Brunson will be released and are not aware of any such deal.
NBC reports that Brunson's release was discussed in September when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton met with Turkish officials at the United Nations General Assembly in NY.
The court near the western city of Izmir on Friday sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years and 1 month in prison for the conviction, but since the evangelical pastor has already spent two years in detention he won't serve more time.
NBC's sources said an agreement on Brunson's release was advanced in discussions last month between Turkish and USA officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, during the United Nations General Assembly in NY. Those moves in August, coupled with concerns over the government's economic management, helped trigger a Turkish currency crisis. He lived with his wife and three children while working as the pastor of the small Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a congregation of about two dozen.
The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him.
Special operations forces and riot police took high security measures in the street where Brunson is under house arrest.
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