Trump asked Israel to release alleged Hamas smuggler in prisoner swap with Turkey: report

Trump asked Israel to release alleged Hamas smuggler in prisoner swap with Turkey: report
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE reportedly tried to strike a deal for the release of an American pastor currently imprisoned in Turkey by asking Israel to release a Turkish woman accused of being a smuggler for Hamas.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month to release the woman, Ebru Ozkan, who was arrested on July 11 as she tried to fly home from Tel Aviv. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's administration had been publicly upset over the arrest.

Ozkan was released on July 15, the day after Trump made the request. She thanked Erdoğan, who “was kind enough to be very interested in my case,” after her arrival in Instanbul, according to the Post.

ADVERTISEMENT

The newspaper reported that U.S. officials believed that Turkey would release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is facing terrorism and espionage charges in that country, after Ozkan's release. The U.S. claims that the charges against Brunson, who has been held for two years, are false.

However, a Turkish court on Wednesday ordered that Brunson be placed on house arrest for the remainder of his trial.

Trump responded by threatening to impose heavy sanctions against Turkey.

“Turkey missed a real opportunity. Pastor Brunson is not a bargaining chip,” a White House official told the Post.

An unnamed senior Turkish official said in a statement Friday that reports of a deal between the U.S. and Turkey on the exchange of prisoners are “completely baseless.”

Erdoğan's administration did not immediately respond to the Post.

The Treasury Department, which oversees financial sanctions, has not announced new sanctions against Turkey over Brunson’s imprisonment.