US 'hopeful' on pastor's release, unaware of a deal with Turkey

NBC News: US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal

Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

Two unnamed senior administration officials and a third person briefed told NBC that the US and Turkey reached a deal to secure Mr. Brunson's return home.

"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.

Brunson, a missionary who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was arrested in December 2016 and accused of backing a coup attempt that July against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Brunson, a longtime resident of Turkey, has been under house arrest since October 2016 on terror and espionage allegations.

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 USA citizen who has been detained for two years.

The details of the deal are unclear, but those familiar with the discussions said it includes a commitment by the U.S.to ease economic pressure on Turkey.

In a Middle East Eye report in late September, Turkish and United States officials said they were working to free Brunson.

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Brunson is under house arrest but could get up to 35 years in prison if convicted on charges that his lawyers say are baseless.

An American pastor may soon be released after two years of captivity in Turkey.

"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.

The court's decision 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. "We hope to solve the matters between us as soon as possible and develop ties with the U.S.in politics and the economy once again, in line with the spirit of being strategic partners".

"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", Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday.

But amid the frenzied diplomatic crisis that has followed Khashoggi's disappearance, releasing Brunson now could afford Turkey much-needed leverage from the U.S.in challenging Saudi Arabia. "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared. "We both want to leave this problem behind and focus on other areas to further our cooperation; especially Manbij, trade relations, and so on".

He has denied the accusations.

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