Trial of USA pastor Brunson resumes in western Turkey

NBC News: US Pastor to Be Released After Secret Turkey Deal

Hopes are rising that American pastor Andrew Brunson may be freed, more than two years after he was first detained in Turkey.

The case against the evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, triggered a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington with U.S. slapping tariffs against Turkey.

"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.

Norine Brunson, wife of USA pastor Andrew Brunson, departs for her husband's court hearing in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018.

The trial of Brunson resumed on Friday with the fourth hearing in western Izmir province.

Brunson has been under arrest since December 2016 and under house arrest since July.

Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted. "The US has signalled that it will increase sanctions on Turkey, making an already weak Turkish economy even weaker", said Mr Stein.

However, Mr Pence would not confirm such a deal existed.

"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", Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday.

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"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", the outlet quoted another unnamed senior administration official as saying.

Turkey and the USA have faced rocky relations following Washington's imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention.

Brunson led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church.

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will - he and his wife - will be able to return to the United States... and we're very hopeful that we'll see a good outcome before too long", he said.

The release of Mr Brunson could help Mr Trump shore up evangelical support four weeks ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.

He was arrested on charges of espionage and for his alleged links to the PKK and Fetullah Terror Organisation (FETO), which is behind the defeated July 2016 coup attempt. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup.

The U.S. chargé d'affaires to Turkey, Jeffrey M. Hovenier, was also in the courtroom.

United States support for Kurdish forces fighting the Syrian civil war has also angered Mr Erdogan, who views them as an extension of the PKK. Mr Erdogan has indicated he would swap the pastor for "the priest" (Mr Gulen).

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