Andrew Brunson: Hopes rising as U.S. pastor due to court

Pastor Andrew Brunson is escorted by Turkish plainclothes police officers on July 25 in Izmir. More

Pastor Andrew Brunson is escorted by Turkish plainclothes police officers on July 25 in Izmir. More

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 US officials and people close to the case.

The White House, however, isn't spiking the football and celebrating just yet.

Brunson is under house arrest but could get up to 35 years in prison if convicted on charges that his lawyers say are baseless.

This makes sense, given the many false starts in the past several weeks, where Trump officials issued positive sounding statements to the press about Brunson's imminent release, only to have talks stall.

One of the many areas of friction between Turkey and the United States may finally be resolved, according to a report on Thursday, after a secret deal was apparently stuck for the release of a U.S. citizen who has been detained for two years.

"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.

The row with the U.S. has exacerbated pressures on Turkey's lira, which has plunged more than 40 percent this year over concerns about Erdogan's influence on monetary policy, relations with Washington and the central bank's ability to rein in double-digit inflation.

Pastor Brunson, an evangelical from North Carolina, was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and was accused, without any evidence, of helping terrorist groups and of espionage.

"That needs to be done immediately", he added.

Relations have not been good between the United States and Turkey, with Brunson becoming caught up in a protracted political feud.

The case against Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has become the flashpoint in a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington, triggering USA tariffs and sanctions against Turkey and condemnation from President Donald Trump. The Turkish government, however, have refused to budge on the matter.

The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalists on Monday that his country's court rulings apply to everyone, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported. "On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing and we don't know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict". "Our judiciary is independent. Let's wait and see what the court will decide".

Despite the hefty economic sanctions causing the Turkish Lira to drop significantly in value against the dollar, Erdogan insisted that the diplomatic dispute between the two nations is not having an adverse effect on his nation's economy. But the source cautioned that Brunson has appeared close to release before.

More than 50,000 people were arrested in Turkey in President Erdogan's huge post-coup crackdown.

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