BREAKING: Pastor Andrew Brunson Expected to Be Released After 'Secret Deal'

(ACLJ)

A North Carolina pastor who has been imprisoned in Turkey for two years is expected to be released following a secret deal.

According to NBC News:

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, currently scheduled for Friday, the senior administration officials and a person briefed on the matter said. ...

The details of the deal are unclear, but those familiar with the discussions said it includes a commitment by the U.S. to ease economic pressure on Turkey.

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The Trump administration, however, isn't fully confident that Turkey will follow through with the Brunson agreement because Ankara was close to a commitment to release him several months ago but did not, one senior administration official 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 third senior administration official said.

According to the The Washington Post:

In a negotiated deal that includes the lifting of U.S. sanctions — both threatened and implemented — against Turkey, charges against Pastor Andrew Brunson are to be reduced to allow him to be sentenced to time already served, or to be transferred to serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

The agreement, part of which was negotiated at last month's United Nations General Assembly, attended by both President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will either lead to Brunson's immediate release Friday, or his freeing within a few days, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the still-secret arrangement.

The missionary has been used as a political pawn by Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan. The Trump administration levied multiple tariffs against the Middle Eastern country in an attempt to get them to release the pastor.

Brunson was charged with committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member," in reference to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a U.S-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison, or the equivalent of a life sentence.

The Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) Coalition has been following Brunson's case closely, advocating for his release and working with other groups to raise public awareness and encourage prayer.

"Just 10 days before this crucial hearing in Turkey, thousands of Christians continue to pray for pastor Brunson's release, as well as for the many Christians suffering hardship there," said founding Coalition member and Save the Persecuted Christians Director Dede Laugesen last week. "Andrew Brunson's case is remaining in the spotlight because of the ongoing commitment of the Trump administration, for which we are immensely grateful and appreciative. But millions of Christians around the world do not share this same notoriety and are therefore suffering in silence and alone."

Pastor Brunson has been detained in Turkey since October 2016 and was moved to house arrest in late July but is still not free to return to the U.S., venture outside his home or preach in his Turkish church. Several of the pastor's previous appeals have been denied.

The Trump administration has fought for his release, by both imposing sanctions on Turkey and doubling down on tariffs, which has made the Turkish lira, and in turn the Turkish economy, suffer. Two recent encouraging signs were that the prosecutor in the pastor's case was reassigned and that the lira rallied after reports that Brunson's release was possible at the upcoming hearing.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will—he and his wife will be able to return to the United States," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "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."

Here's what others are saying:

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