US close to securing release of pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey, source says

US officials believe they're on the verge of securing the release of ...

Posted: Oct 12, 2018 2:11 PM
Updated: Oct 12, 2018 2:11 PM

US officials believe they're on the verge of securing the release of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor jailed by Turkey on accusations he helped plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The source cautioned that US officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement.

Andrew Brunson

Misc people

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Embargoes and sanctions

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

International relations

International relations and national security

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

North America

Political Figures - Intl

Political Figures - US

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Americas

Turkey

United States

US federal government

White House

Brunson appeared Friday in court in Aliaga, on the Aegean Sea, facing three judges who could release him or jail him for up to 35 years.

Brunson arrived at the court before dawn Friday, while his wife, Norine Brunson, arrived later in a US diplomatic vehicle.

Bill Devlin, a supporter of the detained pastor and the co-pastor of the Infinity Bible Church in New York, told CNN before entering the courthouse: "We're hoping by the end of business today that he's going to walk a free man."

"All of us believe that he is an innocent man... he would not allow anything political to interrupt his gospel ministry here," he added.

Brunson, in a black suit and red tie, was calm and measured in his responses, as he stood in front of the judges alone, repeatedly looking over at his wife a short distance away.

Turkey has good financial and strategic reasons to release the American, analysts say, including the threat of further US sanctions related to Brunson, and its purchases of Russian weaponry and Iranian oil. But the source cautioned that Brunson has appeared close to release before.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in late September that Brunson "could be released this month" and indicated again on Wednesday that he could be released soon.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will -- he and his wife will be able to return to the United States," Pompeo said at an awards dinner for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. "President Trump has had a focus on it, the administration's had a focus on it and we're very hopeful that we'll see a good outcome before too long."

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent. "I'm not able to confirm anything for you other than to say that (the) President's made clear, our administration's made very clear, that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free and back home in the United States with his family and with his church," he said.

A little later on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters, "I am not aware of any such deal. ... We're not aware of anything. There's a hearing that takes place tomorrow. There's a legal process to play out."

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 US after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.

In August, Trump told reporters that Turkey had "not acted as a friend" and "they made up phony charges that he's a spy. He's not a spy."

Trump slapped Turkey, a NATO ally, with sanctions in August, targeting the country's justice and interior ministers. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at the time that the US was prepared to add more sanctions if Brunson wasn't released.

But there have been signs of a warming. Trump and Erdogan met briefly on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September for the first time since relations soured over Brunson. And shortly afterward, Erdogan predicted the two countries would weather the storm.

"Our strategic partnership, which has gone through difficulties so many times, will overcome this turbulent period," Erdogan said during an address at an investment conference held by the Turkey-US Business Council, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdogan had said he wouldn't hand Brunson back to the US, 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.

If the court lifts Brunson's house arrest order on Friday and doesn't impose a new travel ban, he will be free to leave the country.

"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release," the Eurasia Group said last week.

Erdogan has good reasons to make Brunson's release happen. If the pastor remains under Turkish arrest, ties between Ankara and Washington will worsen and Erdogan faces the prospect of more sanctions, not just for Brunson but for Turkey's recent purchase of Russian S400 defense missiles.

The Eurasia Group notes another danger. Turkey runs "a risk of the US Treasury announcing a substantial fine on Halkbank for violating US sanctions on Iran," its analysts said of the Turkish state-owned bank, adding that, "if Brunson is not released, the odds of Turkey receiving an Iran sanctions waiver from the US in early November for continued oil imports also go down significantly."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 157713

Reported Deaths: 4092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25392789
Lake13805355
St. Joseph9277163
Elkhart8890135
Allen8278230
Hamilton6215113
Vanderburgh588261
Tippecanoe375915
Hendricks3302133
Monroe326638
Porter322049
Johnson3151129
Delaware297074
Clark296762
Vigo264840
Madison240595
LaPorte226658
Cass225522
Warrick195265
Kosciusko187826
Floyd180167
Howard164066
Bartholomew143358
Marshall140026
Dubois139626
Wayne132130
Henry128430
Grant127839
Boone124550
Hancock119944
Noble117434
Jackson114416
Dearborn98028
Morgan94840
Lawrence90837
Daviess89334
Gibson88612
Clinton86716
Shelby83531
LaGrange81015
Knox77410
Harrison77324
Putnam73716
Posey7236
DeKalb72011
Fayette69018
Steuben6338
Miami6305
Jasper6175
White59215
Montgomery59022
Greene55337
Scott52413
Decatur50739
Adams5027
Whitley4636
Clay4537
Ripley4538
Sullivan44414
Wells43511
Wabash4219
Starke4157
Orange40925
Huntington4015
Spencer3956
Washington3783
Franklin37625
Jennings36913
Fulton3653
Randolph3659
Jefferson3435
Pike33518
Carroll32913
Perry32614
Jay3116
Fountain3073
Tipton27823
Vermillion2531
Parke2374
Newton23011
Blackford2193
Rush2184
Owen2071
Martin2000
Crawford1591
Pulaski1562
Brown1433
Ohio1327
Benton1120
Union1110
Switzerland960
Warren841
Unassigned0234

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 192948

Reported Deaths: 5184
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin31703640
Cuyahoga19906684
Hamilton16878344
Montgomery10546189
Butler8401130
Lucas8364373
Summit6780265
Warren428466
Stark3853182
Mahoning3739287
Marion341250
Pickaway302446
Delaware290627
Lorain275489
Fairfield268657
Licking262366
Clark253057
Wood252981
Clermont251238
Greene234542
Trumbull2290134
Allen218373
Columbiana213387
Miami202858
Lake196659
Medina188942
Portage165468
Mercer154728
Wayne144669
Ross141537
Richland135124
Tuscarawas130825
Athens12352
Erie116953
Darke115551
Hancock106626
Madison106315
Auglaize102316
Putnam101627
Lawrence94525
Shelby91714
Muskingum9044
Scioto8719
Geauga86950
Belmont78927
Union7703
Ashtabula73548
Sandusky71722
Huron71614
Preble63518
Holmes63310
Seneca60714
Ottawa58930
Fulton54513
Henry48817
Jefferson4774
Clinton47213
Jackson4728
Crawford4688
Defiance46613
Fayette4528
Highland4446
Logan4353
Ashland4109
Champaign4053
Knox39416
Brown3883
Perry37311
Morrow3562
Washington35524
Hardin34813
Williams3464
Guernsey3298
Coshocton32412
Pike3120
Wyandot29813
Gallia29213
Van Wert2685
Carroll2157
Adams2126
Meigs21012
Paulding2072
Hocking1999
Monroe16318
Noble1480
Vinton1043
Harrison843
Morgan800
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 36°
Angola
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 29°
Huntington
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Van Wert
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Cooler Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events