Andrew Brunson: Turkey to release United States pastor Brunson

Roman Schwartz
October 12, 2018

Brunson has been accused of backing outlawed Kurdish rebels and the network led by US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The evangelical pastor was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in prison.

The US has maintained he is held unjustly and has repeatedly called for his release. Saudi officials reject the claims as "baseless".

United States officials are hopeful that when Mr Brunson appears in court his charges will be dropped and within days will be allowed to return home to North Carolina. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations.

A panel of judges is expected to reach an interim ruling later Friday. A person involved in efforts to free Andrew Brunson says the 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina could... 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.

A little later on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters, "I am not aware of any such deal".

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A previous deal to get Brunson freed collapsed in July when a Turkish court chose to place the American pastor under house arrest.

News about the imminent release is said to have followed secret talks in NY last month on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Turkish officials.

Brunson, whose possible release was first reported by NBC, has been held since 2016 and his imprisonment led to a rapid decline in relations between Turkey and the United States after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause. The Turkish government, however, have refused to budge on the matter. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup. 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 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, with top representative Tony Perkins monitoring the trial, has listed him as a "prisoner of conscience".

Brunson left his house early on Friday to the hearing amid reports he could be released.

A Turkish court has ruled for the release of an American pastor at the heart of a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States after a hearing on October 12 during which key witnesses flipped and the prosecution softened.

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