US 'hopeful' on pastor's release, unaware of a deal with Turkey

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However, he was freed taking into account time served and his good conduct in the trial, with the court lifting his house arrest and overseas travel ban, the correspondent added.

But in recent weeks, Brunson's release became the subject of talks "at the highest level" so that the U.S. and Turkey could move on to dealing with over issues facing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, a United States diplomat told Middle East Eye.

Brunson told the court he is "an innocent man". He tearfully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court decision.

A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor of terror links but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave the country, a move that's likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The hearing began two hours later than scheduled, at 11:30 a.m. local time, and lasted more than five hours.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent.

If the Brunson issue is resolved to Washington's satisfaction, it could help the two sides coordinate their Saudi policy more closely. In court on Friday, the prosecution is expected to introduce two new secret witnesses, but Brunson's lawyer Cem Halavurt said their testimonies were not germane to the case.

The Turkish lira firmed on the report.

Brunson, 50, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, rejects the charges and strongly maintains his innocence.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups and of alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and to a network led by a USA -based Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims orchestrated the coup attempt. The evangelical pastor was convicted of terror-related charges, but he was also accused of espionage. The prosecutor had asked for a 10 year sentence. He was an ally of Erdogan's until a public falling-out in 2013 led the government to declare Gulen's network a terror group. Brunson's case has been a source of tension between the two countries and triggered USA sanctions and tariffs to be imposed on Turkey.

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"'Give us the pastor back', they say".

Turkey and the USA also disagree over their military interventions in the Syria war, Ankara's plan to buy missile defense systems from Russian Federation and the U.S. conviction of a Turkish state bank executive on sanctions-busting charges in January. An evangelical Christian pastor, he had also become a rallying cry for religious freedom advocates in the U.S. "We hope to solve the matters between us as soon as possible and develop ties with the politics and the economy once again, in line with the spirit of being strategic partners".

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies are also under strain over US support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey's plans to buy a Russian missile defence system, and the USA jailing of a executive at a Turkish state bank in an Iran sanctions-busting case.

"The fact that he is now on a plane to the United States can only be viewed as a significant victory for Pastor Brunson and his family", he said.

"I really don't believe we'd be here today without the administration that we have in place now, working so hard and so tirelessly to bring Andrew home", she said.

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