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United States pastor held in Turkey may be released under secret deal

12 October 2018

News reported Thursday that the White House has reached a secret arrangement with Turkey to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson who has been detained there for two years.

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

Despite being moved to house arrest in July after increasing pressure from the USA government, the pastor remains under the control of the authorities.

One of the many areas of friction between Turkey and the United States may finally be resolved, according to a report on Thursday, after a secret deal was apparently stuck for the release of a U.S. citizen who has been detained for two years.

US President Donald Trump, at the time, tweeted that the US would impose sanctions on Turkey, adding: "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately".

The court on Friday called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at the previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will - he and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said at an awards dinner for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. But the source cautioned that Brunson has appeared close to release before.

In addition to the US State Department, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a briefing, declined to confirm any deal between Turkey and US, but he voiced hope for Brunson's release.

Brunson, 50, is accused of terror-related charges and espionage.

"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.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalists on Monday that his country's court rulings apply to everyone, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported.

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

The court's decision of house arrest had 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.

If Mr Brunson is not released tomorrow and is instead convicted on charges of espionage - carrying a sentence of up to 35 years - or if the hearing is rescheduled, economic pressure could be ramped up against Ankara.

He has denied the accusations.

United States pastor held in Turkey may be released under secret deal