Erdoğan used Brunson as bargaining chip to make Israel release Turkish woman - book

In their new book “A Very Stable Genius,” Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker describe how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ensured in 2018 the release of a Turkish woman imprisoned in Israel by offering a prisoner swap deal to U.S. President Donald Trump, Hareetz reported on Wednesday.

The deal started shaping when Erdoğan and Trump met at a NATO summit in Brussels in early July 2018, Leonnig and Rucker say in their book.

During their meeting, Erdoğan asked Trump to press Israel to release Turkish national Ebru Özkan, who was detained in Tel Aviv for smuggling money and goods to Hamas. The Turkish president promised Trump in return to ensure the release of Andrew Brunson, who had been detained in Turkey for almost two year on flimsy terror charges.

The book says Trump and Erdogan concluded the deal with a fist bump.

A few days later, Trump decided to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he was spending the weekend at his golf resort in Scotland. Trump asked Netanyahu to release Özkan, while the Israeli Prime Minister said he knew nothing about the woman.

“He (Netanyahu) agreed to look into it and to help speed her release, barring some other issue,” Leonnig and Rucker wrote. “The next day, July 15, Özkan was released.”

But a Turkish court later in the month transferred Brunson to house arrest, instead of releasing him. Brunson was freed in October, after Trump in August imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish metals, triggering a currency crises in Turkey.

The Turkish officials denied any kind of prisoner swap deal between Erdoğan and Trump, when the Washington Post reported the allegations for the first time in July 2018.