Turkish prosecutor seeks 10-year jail term for U.S. pastor

BREAKING White House Reaches Deal With Turkey to Free Jailed US Pastor Andrew Brunson  image Getty Center for Law and Justice

In a tweet in August, Pence said us sanctions "will continue until President Erdogan and the Turkish government release Pastor Brunson and return this innocent man of faith to the U.S".

The Trump administration had sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over Brunson's longtime detention - Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu - calling them "leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses", according to the Treasury Department. "A positive development in the cases of Pastor Brunson, Serkan Golge, and local employees of the USA mission in Turkey would do much to improve confidence and to restore the bilateral relationship". His wife Norine looked on from the visitors' seating area as he listened to testimony from defense and prosecution witnesses.

Trump tweets he authorised a doubling of duties on aluminium and steel imported from Turkey.

News and The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the United States and Turkey had reached an agreement in which some charges against Brunson would be dropped and he would be released at the hearing or soon after.

Turkish officials claim the writer may have been killed inside the Saudi diplomatic mission and Turkish newspapers have released pictures of alleged Saudi agents flown in to allegedly handle the killing.

The Post said the deal included lifting US sanctions, some already imposed and others threatened.

Erdogan had said he wouldn't hand Brunson back to the U.S., but analysts at the Eurasia Group note that the Turkish President has recently shifted position, saying the decision wasn't his to make but would be made by the independent Turkish judiciary.

USA broadcaster NBC said on Thursday that Washington had done a secret deal with Ankara to secure Brunson's release.

His detention sparked a widening rift between Turkey and the US.

Brunson, who was detained in a Turkish prison until he was moved to house arrest in July, was convicted of terrorism and espionage charges, which his lawyers have denied as baseless. He is one of thousands caught up in a Turkish government crackdown following a failed 2016 coup against the Turkish government.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of Gulen as well as Kurdish militants who have been fighting the Turkish state for decades.

Brunson's lawyers petition the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest court, for his release after being rejected by high criminal courts in the Aegean Izmir province. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations.

The court slammed Brunson with a 37 month sentence but released the pastor after serving two years.

"We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination", he said.

Brunson, a native of North Carolina, worked as an evangelical Presbyterian pastor at the Izmir Resurrection Church. He was in prison until July and has since been moved to house arrest. He was arrested in 2016 and charged with being involved in a failed coup against the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup.

Brunson and his supporters had maintained that Kalkan and other witnesses were resenting the fact they had been expelled from the congregation and were fabricating allegations against him. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, with representatives monitoring the trial, has listed him as a "prisoner of conscience".

The case against Mr Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years and was arrested two years ago, had led to United States tariffs against Turkey and drawn condemnation from Mr Trump.

Associated Press journalists Mehmet Guzel in Izmir and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.

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