Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Turkish prosecutor seeks 10-year jail term for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutor seeks 10-year jail term for U.S. pastor

News reported Thursday that the White House has reached a secret arrangement with Turkey to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson who has been detained there for two years.

The secret deal is reportedly tied to a commitment to ease economic sanctions on Turkey and will lead to some charges being dropped against Brunson at his next court hearing Friday, sources told NBC News.

Turkey arrested Mr. Brunson on terrorism charges after accusing him of having a hand in the failed 2016 military coup.

The court near the western city of Izmir on Friday sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years and 1 month in prison for the conviction, but since the evangelical pastor has already spent two years in detention he won't serve more time.

A senior Trump administration official said, however, that the administration is "not fully confident" Turkey will oblige by the terms of the agreement.

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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.

Administrations officials have said Brunson's release "would be a significant step towards mending ties between the USA and Turkey".

"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", Pence said.

WND reported last week Brunson's lawyer petitioned Turkey's highest court to release the pastor from house arrest.

Sources told NBC that negotiations regarding Brunson's release between Turkish and US officials - which included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton - were "advanced in discussions" in September at the UN General Assembly.

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On Thursday, the US State Department said it wasn't aware of any deal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that his government could not interfere in a judicial case.

The evangelical pastor is accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

The deal, they said, would include the lifting of USA sanctions in exchange for reduced charges that would allow Brunson to either be sentenced for time served or serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

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

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He has denied the accusations.

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