Andrew Brunson - Getty Images
Getty Images

A lawyer for the US pastor whose two-year detention in Turkey led to a bitter row with Washington said on Wednesday he had appealed to the constitutional court for the American’s release.

Pastor Andrew Brunson has been under house arrest at his home in the western city of Izmir since July and was previously held in jail after being detained in October 2016 on terror-related charges.

His lawyer, Cem Halavurt, told AFP that he had applied to the court on Tuesday afternoon, although he previously said he would apply on Wednesday morning.

The next hearing in Brunson’s case is on October 12 and there are growing expectations that he will be permitted to return to the United States.

Halavurt said the constitutional court “procedure can take a few months” after making the application via a court in Istanbul.

Brunson, who ran a small evangelical Protestant church in Izmir and has lived in Turkey since 1993, is at the centre of tensions between Ankara and Washington.

He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted on charges of carrying out activities on behalf of two groups deemed by Turkey to be terror organisations — one led by US-based Muslim preacher, Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind the failed 2016 coup and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Brunson and US officials insist he is innocent of all charges.

Relations were further strained after he was put under house arrest and Washington’s decision to impose sanctions on two Turkish ministers, and double steel and aluminium tariffs in August, sparking a dramatic fall in the value of the Turkish lira.

But there have been signs that tensions could ease after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful Turkey would release the pastor while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said he hoped Ankara could rebuild relations with its NATO ally.

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