October 12, 2018 / 5:28 AM / 2 months ago

Turkish lira holds firm against dollar ahead of U.S. pastor hearing

ISTANBUL, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The Turkish lira held firm against the dollar early on Friday ahead of a hearing in the Turkish trial of a U.S. pastor which has strained relations between the two countries, with one U.S. media report saying a deal had been reached on his release.

The lira stood at 5.9 against the U.S. currency at 0520 GMT, unchanged from its close on Thursday when it gained 3 percent on expectations that pastor Andrew Brunson will be returned to the United States after Friday’s court hearing.

The case of Brunson, an evangelical Christian pastor from North Carolina, is among sources of tension between the NATO allies and has been a factor in a 40 percent slide in the lira’s value this year. He faces terrorism charges, which he denies.

NBC News reported that the White House expected Brunson to be released by Turkey and returned to the United States in the coming days, according to two senior administration officials and another person briefed on the matter.

NBC cited its sources as saying that under an agreement which U.S. administration officials recently reached with Turkey, Brunson is supposed to be released after certain charges against him are dropped at Friday’s hearing.

The report could not be confirmed.

Brunson’s lawyer told Reuters earlier that new prosecution witnesses expected to testify on Friday in his trial lacked relevance as their testimony will focus on incidents after his arrest. (Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Ali Kucukgocmen)

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