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Turkey denies claims of 'deal with US'

A senior Turkish official on Friday denied reports of a deal between Ankara and Washington to secure the release of a Turkish citizen in Israel in exchange of a U.S. pastor in Turkey.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media, the official said: "We have seen media reports claiming that a deal was made between Turkey and the U.S. to secure the release of Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish citizen imprisoned in Israel on bogus terrorism charges, in return for the release of Andrew Brunson by a Turkish court."

"Those reports are completely baseless. The Turkish government has no intention of meddling in the affairs of the country’s independent judiciary," the official added.

Later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement and rejected the reports.

“Media reports claiming that Ebru Ozkan was released in Israel in return for the release of Andrew Brunson are completely baseless and unreal,” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.

“As is known, a conditional release decision was made by the court in Israil on July 9th. Ebru Ozkan was released by the court pending trial and returned to Turkey,” Aksoy added.

The reports have been doing the rounds on U.S. media.

After her visit to Jerusalem, Ozkan was arrested on June 11 at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport right before she was returning to Turkey and the court granted her conditional release on July 11.

Brunson, arrested in the Aegean province of Izmir in December 2016 over charges of committing crimes for terror groups FETO and PKK, was recently transferred to house arrest due to his health problems.