The White House expects North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson to be released by the Turkish government and returned to the U.S. in the coming days, two years after he was detained, according to two senior administration officials and another person briefed on the matter.
Under an agreement senior Trump administration officials recently reached with Turkey, Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at his next court hearing, currently scheduled for Friday, the senior administration officials and a person briefed on the matter said.
The details of the deal are unclear, but those familiar with the discussions said it includes a commitment by the U.S. to ease economic pressure on Turkey.
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, one senior administration official said.
“We continue to believe Pastor Brunson is innocent, and the hearing on Friday is another opportunity for the Turkish judicial system to free an American citizen,” a third senior administration official said.
Two senior administration officials said the White House had not been notified of any change in Brunson’s Oct. 12 court hearing as of Thursday morning.
A spokesperson for the Turkish embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment on the record and the Brunson family said they are also not commenting at this time.
The Turkish government has accused Brunson of helping terrorist groups, charges he has denied. The Trump administration has aggressively pushed for his release, saying he was wrongfully detained. In July, Turkey released Brunson from prison and moved him to house arrest. He faces a possible sentence of up to 35 years in prison if convicted. Read more
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