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Trump administration cautiously optimistic that pastor held in Turkey will be freed

Friday, 12 October, 2018, 11:40
Trump administration cautiously optimistic that pastor held in Turkey will be freed

The Trump administration is cautiously optimistic that an American cleric who has been held in Turkey for the past
two years on espionage and ­terrorism-related charges will be released soon after a court hearing Friday, according to U.S. officials and people close to the case.

In a negotiated deal that includes the lifting of U.S. sanctions — both threatened and implemented — against Turkey, charges against the Rev. Andrew Brunson are to be reduced to allow him to be sentenced to time already served, or to be allowed to serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

The agreement — part of which was negotiated at last month’s U.N. General Assembly meeting, attended by President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — will lead either to Brunson’s immediate release Friday or his freeing within a few days, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the still-secret arrangement.

In a speech Wednesday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was “very hopeful that we’ll see a good outcome before too long.”

A spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington said it was “not in a position to comment on an ongoing judicial process.”

The return of Brunson, whose case has been an intense focus of Trump’s evangelical political base, would be a major victory for the president. The administration would likely cast it as proof of the wisdom of his hard-line stance against Turkey, a NATO ally, and his commitment to protecting besieged Christians around the world.