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Turkey court rejects appeal for US pastor’s release

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A Turkish court on Tuesday rejected an appeal to release from house arrest a US pastor whose detention on terror-related charges has strained relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington, state media reported.

The court in the Aegean region of Izmir rejected an appeal by the lawyer for Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church, to have him released from house arrest and have his travel ban removed, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

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The court had last week ordered that Brunson, who had spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016, be moved from jail to house arrest at his home in Izmir.

But the move stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis, with US media reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has denied.

Last week US President Donald Trump threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if the pastor was not freed, following similar warnings from his Vice President Mike Pence.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that sanction threats would not force Ankara to take a “step back”, in comments reported on Sunday.

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Demiroren News Agency/AFP/File / STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia who Turkey claims are terrorists as well as the failure to extradite US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen of organising the July 2016 failed coup, claims which he denies.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey deems to be terror groups: the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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Brunson denies the charges while US officials have repeatedly stressed that Brunson is innocent. Trump has previously called the pastor a “fine gentleman”.

Brunson is one of several American nationals caught up in the crackdown after the attempted putsch two years ago.

NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in February for being a member of Gulen’s movement. Two employees from American missions in Turkey remain in custody and another under house arrest.

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The next hearing in Brunson’s trial is on October 12.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during this week’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).


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Former four-star general speculates whistleblower scandal could involve Trump giving Putin an American

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It remains unclear exactly what were the issues cited by the whistleblower who expressed concern at actions of President Donald Trump as a threat to national security, at least one of which involved a promise the president allegedly made in a phone call with a foreign leader.

But former Gen. Barry McCaffrey had a chilling thought about what it could possibly be — and posted his speculation on Twitter:

SHEER SPECULATION. Is it possible that the WHISTLEBLOWER issue was Trump discussing with Putin handing over our former US Ambassador to Moscow Mike McFaul to Russian authorities? https://t.co/0PnQn0upiA

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House Judiciary Committee considering vote to hold Corey Lewandowski in contempt of Congress: report

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On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the House Judiciary Committee is considering a vote to hold President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in contempt of Congress, after a lengthy hearing on Wednesday in which Lewandowski aggressively attacked members of the committee and admitted that he routinely lies to media outlets.

This development comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told members of her caucus that she supports holding Lewandowski in contempt.

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‘This person has to be very senior’: Ambassador McFaul breaks down two possible whistleblower motivations

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America's former ambassador to Russia on Thursday broke down what we know about the whistleblower alleging wrongdoing by President Donald Trump.

Ambassador Michael McFaul was interviewed by MSNBC chief legal correspondent Ari Melber on "The Beat."

"In my understanding, have -- having worked closely with the intelligence community, when I was in the government -- nobody that I know would go to these steps unless there was something really serious. This is not about the inappropriate use of classified material," McFaul noted. "It’s something much bigger."

"We’re talking about someone who is at a senior enough level to have this level of access, who knows the rules and knows they can lose their job or worse," Melber noted.

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