Monday, 17 December, 2018

US, Turkey said to reach deal on release of American pastor

BREAKING President Trump to Meet Freed American Pastor in Oval Office American pastor whose arrest for treason enraged Trump is due in court and could be released TODAY
Jeannette Daniel | 12 October, 2018, 06:17

"I am very hopeful that before too long. he and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

The Secretary of State said that "Pastor Brunson and the other USA persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey".

"We continue to believe Pastor Brunson is innocent, and the hearing on Friday is another opportunity for the Turkish judicial system to free an American citizen", one of the senior administration officials was quoted by NBC as saying. Leaked reports by Turkish officials allege the Saudis lured Khashoggi to its Istanbul consulate, where they then murdered him and disposed of his dismembered body.

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.

"President Trump has had a focus on it, the administration has had a focus on it, and we're very hopeful that we'll see a good outcome before too long", Pompeo told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

The pastor, who has been under house arrest since being released from prison in July, denies charges of espionage.

After last summer's failed agreement, Trump levied sanctions on two senior Turkish cabinet ministers, and Erdogan reciprocated against senior USA officials.

In August, Trump told reporters that Turkey had "not acted as a friend" and "they made up phony charges that he's a spy". Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at the time that the U.S. was prepared to add more sanctions if Brunson wasn't released.

But there have been signs of a warming.

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At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Trump and Erdogan had a brief, informal meeting. And shortly afterward, Erdogan predicted the two countries would weather the storm.

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

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was arrested in a sweep of thousands that took place after an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016.

Erdogan had said he wouldn't hand Brunson back to the United States, but analysts at the Eurasia Group note that the Turkish President has recently shifted position, saying the decision wasn't his to make but would be made by the independent Turkish judiciary.

"The Khashoggi affair adds a new variable to a complex question the USA and Turkey had already found quite hard to solve".

Brunson has been held for nearly two years trumped-up on wide-ranging charges of conspiring to overthrow the Turkish government.

The Eurasia Group notes another danger.

"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", Pence said.

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