Turkish prosecutor calls for lifting of judicial controls on US pastor

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Pastor Andrew Brunson is expected to be released within the coming days, according to two senior Trump administration officials briefed on the matter.

News reports, citing senior administration officials and an individual briefed on the matter, that "under an agreement recently reached with Turkey, Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at his next court hearing".

"President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the United States with his family and his church".

A Turkish prosecutor called for a jail sentence of 10 years for a US Christian pastor on Friday, and also asked the court to lift judicial controls, a move that would allow Andrew Brunson to leave the country immediately.

One senior administration official express skepticism Turkey is going to carry through on its end of the deal Friday, because there had been and agreement to release him before that had fallen through, according to the report.

Brunson, whose possible release was first reported by NBC, has been held since 2016 and his imprisonment led to a rapid decline in relations between Turkey and the United States after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause. "The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey's economy".

In addition to the US State Department, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a briefing, declined to confirm any deal between Turkey and US, but he voiced hope for Brunson's release. "Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges ..."

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USA pastor Andrew Brunson, accompanied by Turkish security officers, arrives at Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in a vehicle in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018.

Aaron Stein, a scholar who focuses on Turkey at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East, told The National that "the ball remains in Turkey's court". Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing usa officials and people close to the case.

He has denied the accusations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalists on Monday that his country's court rulings apply to everyone, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported.

The court's decision of house arrest had failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Washington sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.

Last week, Erdogan accused the Trump administration of using Brunson as a pretext for sanctions, charging the pastor has "dark ties to terror groups, Bloomberg reported".

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