February 19
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the release of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson by a Turkish court at his next hearing on Friday would be an important step and the right thing for Turkey to do, Reuters reported.

“It is the right thing for them to do, it is the humanitarian thing for Turkey to do,” Pompeo told the annual Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) dinner in Washington. “I am very hopeful that before too long he and his wife will be able to return to the United States.”

Asked what his release would mean for U.S-Turkey relations, Pompeo said: “It is an important step.”

Brunson’s case has become the most divisive issue in a worsening diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Washington that has triggered U.S. sanctions and tariffs against Turkey.

Brunson is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016. He has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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