Official: Israel Freed Turkish Detainee at Trump’s Request

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

Israel freed an alleged Turkish terrorist following a request from President Donald Trump, an Israeli official said on Friday after The Washington Post reported that the deal was part of a failed White House bid to get Ankara to release an American detainee.

Israel deported Ebru Ozkan on July 15, a week after indicting her for ties to the Hamas terror group – charges her lawyer denied. She had been arrested by Israel while on a tourist visa in June. Her case angered Turkey.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a July 14 phone call to let Ozkan go in a “trade” for Andrew Brunson, a U.S. pastor who has spent 21 months in Turkish detention.

“I can confirm that there was such a request by President Trump,” an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.

Brunson, who denies charges of links to a group Ankara says was behind a failed 2016 coup, was moved to house arrest on Wednesday – prompting the Trump administration to threaten sanctions against NATO-power Turkey.