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Hopes soar for US pastor's release as Trump fist-bumps Erdogan

The odds look better than ever that American pastor Andrew Brunson will finally be freed from a Turkish prison after President Donald Trump made friendly gestures toward President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, but there are no guarantees that Brunson will walk free.
Jailed U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson's wife Norine Brunson leaves Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal - RC1CE4816D10

Hopes that Turkey will free a North Carolina pastor who has been held in a Turkish prison on trumped-up terror charges for 21 months are high ahead of his third courtroom hearing on July 18, amid a mix of cajoling and threats from Washington. Andrew Brunson’s release would help ease tensions between the two NATO allies, whose ties have taken a nosedive over US support for Kurdish militants in Syria.

The most immediate cause for optimism is the positive body language displayed by President Donald Trump during his encounter with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at last week’s NATO summit in Brussels. The two were all smiles as they were photographed exchanging fist bumps together with French President Emmanuel Macron.

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