USA 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.
Pastor Brunson, an evangelical from North Carolina, was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and was accused, without any evidence, of helping terrorist groups and of espionage.
Brunson was taken from his house - where he had been under house arrest since July 25 - under strict security measures and brought to the prison and courthouse complex in Aliağa district for the trial.
According to the NBC report, Trump administration officials aren't "fully confident" that Turkey will actually go through with the agreement.
The US has been adamant that Brunson is innocent and has repeatedly asked Turkey to free him.
NBC's sources explained that much of the deal is unknown, but it will require the U.S.to back down on economic pressures.
The source cautioned that U.S. officials are counting on Turkish officials to follow through on their end of the agreement, which appears to now be in place with Brunson due to appear before a Turkish court on Friday.
Brunson has been held for nearly two years trumped-up on wide-ranging charges of conspiring to overthrow the Turkish government.
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"I'm very hopeful that before too long Pastor Brunson ... and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
"We remain hopeful that with the court proceeding tomorrow that Turkey will see its way clear and free this good man who is guilty of nothing and who has been incarcerated for several years in Turkey unjustly", the vice-president told reporters at a briefing.
"We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext", Erdogan said.
The U.S. and Mr. Brunson deny he had anything to do with it. Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing USA officials and people close to the case.
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 USA after President Donald Trump took up his case, and the administration elevated religious freedom as a cause. "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared.
"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release", the Eurasia Group said last week.
The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.