The next hearing in US Pastor Craig Brunson’s trial will be held in Izmir today.
Mr Brunson was arrested in 2016 following a failed coup in Turkey, and slapped with espionage and terror-related charges. The pastor, who has been on house arrest since July, could be jailed for up to 35 years if found guilty. The arrest has been at the heart of a deterioration in relations between the US and Turkey that has seen the two impose sanctions on each other and aggravated Ankara’s economic woes.
Today’s hearing could be an interesting measure of where US-Turkey relations are heading. Indeed, there has been an easing of tensions between the NATO partners in recent weeks, which could be capped off today by Brunson’s release from house arrest.
If Brunson is released either today or in the near future, expect US-Turkey relations to warm immediately. Such a move would be warmly welcomed by President Donald Trump, while US sanctions on Turkey could be lifted. If Brunson’s trial pushes ahead and the pastor is found guilty, relations could become unsalvageable, pushing Turkey closer to Russia in the long-term.
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Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.