He said he did not hear any tapes that allegedly committed Mr. Khashoggi's torture and murder, but confirmed, as he has done in recent days, that it was likely he was dead. "At this point, it looks like he may not be there or not, and that's very sad," Trump said. "I think we knew it by now."

Saudi Arabia again denied any involvement in the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi on Saturday. The Home Secretary, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, said in a statement that "what was going on in connection with alleged orders to kill Jamal are direct lies and baseless allegations against the government of the kingdom, which are committed to its principles and rules has and traditions and conforms to international laws and conventions. "

The case of Mr. Brunson generated pressure from religious conservative leaders on Mr. Trump, and the President, Vice President Mike Pence and Congressmen from both parties took it up. The president imposed sanctions on Turkey, and Mr Trump said he had spoken with Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo at least once a day on the case.

An evangelical pastor who led the small resurrection church in Izmir, Mr. Brunson, 50, and his wife Norine lived in Turkey for two years. He was arrested in October 2016, accused of spying on and supporting terrorists, and sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in prison. He was released in house arrest in July, and a Turkish judge on Friday reduced his sentence to the time when Mr Brunson was quickly flown out of the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed on Saturday that the release had been approved by the courts, not by the government. "Mr President, @realDonaldTrump, as I have always emphasized, the Turkish judiciary has made its decision independently," he said wrote in Turkish on Twitter, "I hope that Turkey and the US will continue the cooperation of two allies."

The response in Turkey to the release was otherwise muted. The government downplayed the event, a sign of discomfort since Mr. Brunson had long been vilified by the Turkish media as a terrorist and spy.

But the anti-American, nationalist stance, increasingly accepted by the Turkish government and Mr Erdogan himself since the failed coup attempt in 2016, will not be easily reversed. "Never come back!" Shouted the anti-state newspaper Yeni Safak in a headline on Saturday after Mr. Brunson left the country.


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