USA pastor detained in Turkey may soon be released


U.S. officials believe they're on the verge of securing the release of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor jailed by Turkey on accusations he helped plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the USA with his family and his church", added Pence, a devout Christian who has worked to free Brunson for the last two years.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that the hopeful he will soon go free but said she was unaware of any agreement on his release.

Brunson, who was jailed in October 2016 and has been under house arrest since July, is due to appear in court for the next hearing in his trial on Friday.

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson.

That hearing is now scheduled for Friday. The indictment against Brunson also charges him with having contact with Kurdish separatists that Turkey and the United States have designated as terrorists.

NBC News reports that while the reasons for the sudden cooperation from Turkey are unclear, speculation is that Turkey is looking to ease the economic pressure that exists as a result of Brunson's situation. 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.

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

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"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.

At the beginning of August, the U.S. Treasury slapped hefty economic sanctions upon two Turkish officials who were largely responsible for the jailing of an American missionary.

Officials remained cautious, however, in light of a deal that fell apart last summer, with both sides blaming each other for acting in bad faith.

"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.

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

"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.

Turkey wants the USA to agree to his extradition.

The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.