Brunson being moved from prison to house arrest. Photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

American pastor Andrew Brunson is to be released from custody in Turkey and allowed to travel to the United States, a move that could end a crisis which pushed U.S.-Turkey ties to a breaking point over the past two months, AFP reports. Brunson was sentenced to prison time but restrictions on his travel have been lifted.

Catch up quick: Brunson has been held since 2016 on terrorism charges the U.S. says are baseless. Trump fumed publicly and slapped sanctions on Turkey after the pastor was moved to house arrest in August, rather than released as the U.S. expected. Erdogan seemed shocked by the response and refused to back down.

During today's court proceedings, witnesses who had testified against Brunson withdrew those statements. And while prosecutors sought his conviction for "membership in a terror organization," they also asked that he be removed from house arrest. Brunson stated that he was innocent.

  • NBC News reported last night that the U.S. and Turkey had reached a deal on Brunson that "includes a commitment by the U.S. to ease economic pressure on Turkey." Axios has not independently confirmed that report.

This comes as Turkey weighs how forcefully to confront Saudi Arabia over the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

  • Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute tells me "if a reset happens, Saudi Arabia will have played a big role in it."
"I think the [Jamal] Khashoggi incident has inserted a window of opportunity into Erdogan's wait-and-see cycle. He doesn't want to go up against Saudi Arabia unless he knows he has U.S. backing. Enter the unrelated Brunson situation."
  • Where things stand: Cagaptay says that both Trump and Erdogan left "a door open to having a personal relationship again." But relations won't completely reset overnight given several points of tension remain (see item 3).

Go deeper: Jarrett Blanc of the Carnegie Endowment writes for Axios Expert Voices that, despite strained ties, the Trump administration "needs to work closely with Turkey to address" Khashoggi's disappearance.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 18,814,178 — Total deaths: 707,754— Total recoveries — 11,361,953Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 4,823,891 — Total deaths: 158,256 — Total recoveries: 1,577,851 — Total tests: 58,920,975Map.
  3. Public health: Florida surpasses 500,000 confirmed casesFauci calls U.S. coronavirus testing delays "totally unacceptable."
  4. Business: America's next housing crisis.
  5. States: Virginia launches contact tracing app using specs from Apple and Google.
  6. Cities: L.A. mayor authorizes utilities shut-off at homes hosting large gatherings
  7. Politics: White House, Democrats remain "trillions of dollars apart" on stimulus talks.
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Hiroshima mayor warns of rise of nationalism on 75th anniversary

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) at the Memorial Cenotaph in the Peace Memorial Park during the 75th anniversary service for atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima, Japan, on Thursday. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

Hiroshima's Mayor Kazumi Matsui on Thursday urged the international community to work together to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and warned against an increase in "self-centered nationalism," per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: He said at a remembrance service on the atomic bombing of the Japanese city that the 1918 flu pandemic killed millions as countries fighting in World War I were unable to overcome the threat together, per DPR. "A subsequent upsurge in nationalism led to World War II," he added. The U.S. bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and Nagasaki three days later contributed to the end of World War II, but tens of thousands of people died. At the service, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lamented nuclear weapons' "inhumanity," but he didn't mention Japan's wartime past, WashPost noted.

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LeBron James on Trump NBA protest remarks: "We could care less"

The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James kneels during the national anthem before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Wednesday. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LeBron James responded on Wednesday night to President Trump's comments calling NBA players "disgraceful" for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and that he won't watch games because of the action.

The big picture: Trump has repeatedly criticized sports players for taking the knee since 2016. But James said during a news conference, "I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game." November's elections marked "a big moment for us as Americans," he said. "If we continue to talk about, 'We want better, we want change,' we have an opportunity to do that," he added. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league will "respect peaceful protest."

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