Turkey frees detained USA pastor in move likely to please Trump

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It had moved Brunson from prison to house arrest in July.

The pastor is free to leave Turkey if he wants, as the court did not adopt a travel ban.

Andrew Brunson, a pastor who had worked in Turkey for 20 years, was arrested in October 2016 as part of a crackdown against political opponents of the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after a failed coup attempt.

North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson is expected to be released from detention in Turkey and returned to the US after a secret deal has been worked out, according to senior Trump administration officials, NBC News reported Thursday.

Before the court hearing, US Vice President Mike Pence said the release of Pastor Brunson has been a priority for the Trump administration.

Erdogan has cast the devaluation in the lira as an "economic war" against Turkey by foreign powers and has warned of action against those believed to be speculating on the economy or taking advantage of fluctuating exchange rates.

The court's decision at the time failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. Those prayers - combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback - brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted due to their faith. "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".

"This is the day our family has been praying for - I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States".

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But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup. But Brunson maintained his innocence, telling the court, "I love Jesus".

The White House is not elaborating on any deal, but the president suggested Friday that US efforts were ongoing and confirmed that Brunson will be coming home. The prosecutor had asked for a 10 year sentence. Brunson had insisted that he is innocent.

The deal, they said, would include the lifting of USA sanctions in exchange for reduced charges that would allow Brunson to either be sentenced for time served or serve any remaining sentence in the United States.

The U.S. military has a plan to fly Brunson back to America on a military aircraft, officials told Reuters.

But the source cautioned that Brunson has appeared close to release before.

Brunson, 50, has been held for two years on what he and the Trump administration said were false terrorism- and espionage-related charges. The government argued that the American pastor was involved in the failed 2016 military coup, which Mr. Brunson and the US denied.

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, also is crediting the Trump administration for its role in obtaining the pastor's release.

The pastor, who has run a small evangelical Protestant church since 1993 in the western city of Izmir, has become a cause celebre for US President Donald Trump's conservative Christian base.

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