Both Turkish and US government officials have voiced cautious optimism that American pastor Andrew Brunson, jailed by Turkey for the past two years on terrorism allegations, could be released at his next trial hearing, set for 12 October.
“It’s a possible outcome,” a Turkish official told the Wall Street Journal yesterday. But this could only happen, the unidentified official insisted, if the US stopped putting pressure on Ankara to set him free and send him back to his country.
From Washington, US officials stressed that the bitter issues which had erupted over the pastor’s case remained in the hands of US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Erdogan, just like Trump, is known to change his mind frequently and at the last minute,” a US official said.
According to the WSJ report, officials in the Trump administration believe that the “best strategy” is to ease the pressure campaign for Brunson’s immediate release, which had been launched by Trump two months ago.
“Right now it’s a critical time, where you don’t want to put [Turkey] in a bind” before the pastor’s next hearing, US officials told the New York-based business and financial daily.
Specifically, the officials pointed to some recent judicial decisions in Turkey which they saw as positive, including last week’s reduction in the prison charges against Turkish-American NASA scientist Serkan Golge. The legal change was expedited when the courts overturned the dual citizen’s initial conviction for being a member of the Fethullah Gülen (FETO) network accused of leading the failed July 2016 coup attempt to overthrow the Turkish government.