U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that he expected to discuss pastor Andrew Brunson's case with Turkish officials in New York this week.
Talking to reporters in New York, Pompeo said, "He could be released this month," referring to Brunson, who is under a house arrest in Turkey on terror charges.
Brunson, an evangelical pastor at the Evangelic Resurrection Church in western Turkey's İzmir, is at the center of a bitter diplomatic spat between Turkey and the U.S.
He had been working in İzmir for more than 20 years. He was arrested by the Turkish authorities in September 2016 for his alleged links to the PKK terrorist group and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which orchestrated an attempted coup on July 15, 2016.
Brunson faced 35 years in jail, on charges of espionage and committing crimes on behalf of FETÖ and the PKK. He was later moved to a house arrest due to health concerns.
Ankara, on the other hand, has been stressing that Brunson's case should not be used as a political tool since only the judiciary has the authority to make decisions in court cases.
Pompeo said that he is expecting to hold discussions in New York, where U.S. President Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign M
inister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu are currently taking part in the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal claimed Sunday that the "Turkish authorities are sending signals that an American pastor facing terrorism charges could be released next month."
In response to Pompeo, Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said that despite Turkey's goal of maintaining good relations with every country, including the U.S., only the judiciary can make decisions in the Brunson case. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Following Brunson's arrest, Trump, who received some 81 percent of evangelical votes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, called for Brunson's release.
Ankara, however, reiterated the fact that it cannot interfere with judicial procedures and ongoing cases. In response, Washington sanctioned Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and doubled the tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports in August. Turkey also took retaliatory actions.
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