Pastor Brunson’s lawyer not hopeful for his release from Turkey

U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, the American evangelist at the centre of a diplomatic rift between NATO allies Turkey and the United States, will likely remain under Turkish house arrest after his next hearing in Oct. 12, news website Artı Gerçek quoted his lawyer as saying.

The United States last month imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium from Turkey in response to the detention of Brunson and other U.S. citizens that President Donald Trump says are being held as hostages.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Brunson could be released this month, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the courts, not politicians, would decide his fate. 

Brunson was arrested in October 2016 and later charged with links to organisations listed in Turkey as terrorist organisations, including the conservative Islamist Gülen movement that Turkey blames for 2016 coup attempt, and left-wing Kurdish armed rebels.

“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges,” Erdoğan said. “On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing and we don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict.” 

Brunson’s lawyer Cem Halavut said: “I do not know on what grounds, and on the basis of which information Pompeo made that statement. There are those saying the political situation has eased, but, in my opinion, these are subjective comments.”  

He said there was much negotiation at the time Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July, but talks had now halted. 

“President Erdoğan’s statement today also shows this issue will stay in limbo,” Halavut said.