The White House has reportedly struck a secret deal with the Turkish government to release an American pastor who has been jailed in Turkey for more than two years.
The Trump administration expects that the Turkish government will release the pastor, Andrew Brunson, within days, according to NBC News.
Brunson and his wife were jailed in October 2016 on allegations that they helped groups designated as terrorist organizations in Turkey. Brunson, who operated Christian churches in Turkey for 23 years until his arrest, is currently scheduled to attend a court hearing in his case on Friday.
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President Donald Trump reportedly believed in July that he had struck a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to free Brunson. Trump asked the Israeli government to release a Turkish woman from jail there in exchange for Brunson’s freedom, according to reports. But instead of allowing Brunson to return back to the U.S., the Turkish court ordered him held on house arrest while he awaited trial.
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Trump unleashed on Erdogan on Twitter, and the administration placed economic sanctions on the Turkish government. Erdogan has said in public that he is holding Brunson as a bargaining chip in hopes of forcing the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a political foe of Erdogan’s who is living in exile in the U.S.
Erdogan blames Gulen, his former ally, of masterminding a coup attempt against the Turkish government in 2016. Among the accusations against Brunson are that he provided aid to supporters of Gulen’s.
The terms of Brunson’s expected release are unclear, according to NBC, though the relaxation of sanctions are likely to be part of the deal.
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