The United States and Turkey have quietly agreed to a deal that involves the release of jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, U.S. news outlets reported on Tuesday.
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, now scheduled for Friday, the senior administration officials and a person briefed on the matter 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 senior administration official said.
The Secretary of State said that "Pastor Brunson and the other US persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey".
Brunson was taken from his house - where he had been under house arrest since July 25 - under strict security measures and brought to the prison and courthouse complex in Aliağa district for the trial.
State Department officials denied there had been any agreement, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was "hopeful" that Turkey would release him soon.
Finally, after an excruciatingly long wait of nearly two years, it appears the incarceration of United States pastor Andrew Brunson will finally come to an end.
One of the witnesses, called "Sword" by prosecutors, claimed to have seen Brunson's wife at a Christian gathering in Western Turkey, according to testimony to prosecutors published by the Hurriyet newspaper.
Los Angeles Fire Department Bills Verne Troyer's Estate for Ambulance Ride
Troyer became a Hollywood star thanks to his portrayal of Dr Evil's clone, Mini Me, in the second and third Austin Powers movies. They announced Wednesday that actor Vern Troyer's death in April was caused by alcohol poisoning after years of alcohol abuse.
While Brunson's lawyer, Haravut, said he was optimistic about Friday's hearing, he told Yahoo News he was not aware of any deal securing Brunson's release.
After last summer's failed agreement, Trump levied sanctions on two senior Turkish cabinet ministers, and Erdogan reciprocated against senior US officials.
The source cautioned that USA officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement, which appears to now be in place with Brunson due to appear before a Turkish court on Friday.
Turkish and American officials have made several attempts to reach a deal to release Brunson, but negotiations repeatedly failed over Turkey's rogue economic policy and disagreement over strategy in Syria.
The evangelical pastor is accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years if convicted. "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". "We hope to solve the matters between us as soon as possible and develop ties with the U.S.in politics and the economy once again, in line with the spirit of being strategic partners".
Turkey and the US have faced rocky relations following Washington's imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention.
The U.S. has sanctioned Turkish government ministers in response to their treatment of Brunson.