US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he was hopeful that Turkey would soon release an American pastor and end a two-year detention and trial that have shaken relations between the two NATO allies, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
A Turkish court has set a hearing on Oct. 12 for Andrew Brunson, a longtime resident of Turkey who has been detained since October 2016 on terrorism-related charges, first in jail and now under house arrest.
“I’m very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson, he and his wife, will be able to return to the United States,” Pompeo said in response to a question as he accepted an award from a pro-Israel group.
“President Trump has had a focus on it, the administration has had a focus on it, and we’re very hopeful that we’ll see a good outcome before too long,” Pompeo told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of aiding groups considered to be terrorists by Turkey, including one led by Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Turkish preacher who President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup attempt, an allegation strongly denied by the movement.
The pastor, who has run a small evangelical church since 1993 in the western city of Izmir, has become a cause célèbre for Trump’s conservative Christian base.
Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum and sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over Turkey’s refusal to free Brunson, leading to a plunge in the value of the country’s currency.