Andrew Brunson: Hopes rise as U.S. pastor returns to court

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

North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson is expected to be released from detention in Turkey and returned to the USA after a secret deal has been worked out, according to senior Trump administration officials, NBC News reported Thursday.

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

He added that the Trump administration had "made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Brunson is free".

Brunson was taken from his house - where he had been under house arrest since July 25 - under strict security measures and brought to the prison and courthouse complex in Aliağa district for the trial.

"The Trump administration, however, isn't fully confident that Turkey will follow through with the Brunson agreement because Ankara was close to a commitment to release him several months ago but did not", the outlet reported Thursday, citing a senior administration official.

Andrew Brunson arrived the court in a police vehicle before daybreak on October 12, 2018. He is accused of working to convert Kurds to Christianity to destabilize Turkey.

NBC's sources explained that much of the deal is unknown, but it will require the U.S.to back down on economic pressures.

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 source cautioned that USA officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement, which appears to now be in place with Brunson due to appear before a Turkish court on Friday.

Andrew Craig Brunson, 50, who is backed by the White House in his contention the charges have been manufactured for political purposes, was arrested in December 2016 after serving more than two decades in Turkey.

"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.

Turkey and the USA have faced rocky relations following Washington's imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention. That was echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who declined to confirm any deal, but voiced hope Brunson would be released.

"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. He has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release", the Eurasia Group said last week.

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