A Turkish court has sent Pastor Andrew Brunson back to prison to await a new court hearing set for October 12.
The American pastor has been imprisoned for nearly two years, held on made-up charges of terrorism, preaching the Gospel and other things.
"Pastor Brunson has been the victim of one of the most notorious smear campaigns in Turkish history," Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former member of Turkey's parliament, told CBN News.
Erdemir and other experts were cautiously optimistic that Brunson would be set free Wednesday, but it didn't come to pass.
Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted his disappointment that Brunson was not released.
"A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!," the president wrote on his Twitter page.
A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
Since Brunson was jailed, his case has grabbed international headlines and united members of Congress often at odds.
A number of members have been to Turkey to visit Brunson and plead his case, along with the Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-MO) visited both Brunson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We are hearing President Erdogan has a more concrete idea in the ways in which Turkish relations could be harmed as a result of his hostage diplomacy," Erdemir said.
Congress has introduced a range of sanctions, including visa restrictions, against Turkish officials responsible for Brunson's false imprisonment.
Members have also blocked the sale of the F-35 fighter jet to Turkey, America's NATO ally.
Erdogan has consolidated his power in Turkey over the past few years and given himself control over all three branches of government.
Erdemir and other experts call Erdogan's treatment of Brunson "hostage diplomacy" but say it's backfiring.
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"I think we are now seeing an implosion of Erdogan's hostage diplomacy, a tactic he advocated initially to gain diplomatic advantage, has backfired, undermining Turkey's global image -- but more importantly tarnishing Erdogan's image, which is already pretty grim, to begin with," Erdemir said.
However, Erdemir tells CBN News Turkey's legal system, which acts as a puppet of the executive branch, may actually benefit Brunson if Erdogan has decided that he's ready to be rid of the pastor.
"Because Erdogan could simply pick up the phone and demand Pastor Brunson's release, even acquittal," Erdemir explained.
Meanwhile, Christians and concerned people across America and the world are praying for Pastor Brunson's release.
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