American Pastor Detained In Turkey For Two Years May Be Freed Soon

Pastor Andrew Brunson center and U.S. Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey Hovenier left arrive at Adnan Menderes airport for a flight to Germany after his release following his trial in Izmir Turkey Friday Oct. 12 2018 A Turkish court on Friday convic

New prosecution witnesses expected to testify on Friday in the Turkish trial of a U.S. Christian pastor on terrorism charges lack relevance as their testimony will focus on incidents after Andrew Brunson's arrest, his lawyer said.

"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", a third senior administration official told NBC.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Brunson's release on Friday would be an important step and the right thing for Turkey to do.

In July, Turkey moved Brunson from prison to house arrest because of health issues.

Andrew Brunson arrived the court in a police auto before daybreak on October 12, 2018. The indictment against Brunson also charges him with having contact with Kurdish separatists that Turkey and the United States have designated as terrorists.

The deal is said to include a commitment by the U.S.to ease economic pressure on Turkey.

The case against Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has become the flashpoint in a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington, triggering U.S. tariffs against Turkey and condemnation from U.S. President Donald Trump.

The officials cited in the report, however, cautioned that Ankara may not follow through on the purported deal.

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Turkey has good financial and strategic reasons to release the American, analysts say, including the threat of further U.S. sanctions related to Brunson, and its purchases of Russian weaponry and Iranian oil.

Brunson, of Montreat, N.C., faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

"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.

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent.

Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson's release would "help improve U.S. -Turkey relations for the long-term".

"We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext", Erdogan said.

"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release", the Eurasia Group said last week. "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared. Brunson has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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