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'Still Waiting for My Dad to Walk Me Down the Aisle:' A Daughter's Plea for Imprisoned Father to be Freed from Turkish Prison

11-16-2017

For more than 400 days, American pastor Andrew Brunson has sat in a Turkish prison because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, an organization fighting for his release.

This week, the ACLJ and Brunson's daughter took his case to Congress, testifying at the U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing that the pastor has been wrongfully imprisoned and needs to be reunited with his family.

"My husband and I decided to have a civil ceremony and to postpone our wedding until my father is home," Jacqueline Furnari, Brunson's daughter, told the commission. "I'm still waiting for my wedding. I'm still waiting to wear that wedding dress that I got almost a year and a half ago."

"I'm still waiting for my dad to walk me down the aisle, and I'm still waiting for that father-daughter dance," she continued her heartfelt plea.

Brunson faces charges of espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrowing the Turkish parliament, in addition to alleged "membership in an armed terroristic organization," The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Pastor Brunson maintains his innocence and denies all the accusations," testified CeCe Heil, executive counsel for the ACLJ.

Brunson has said his reason for living in Turkey for the past 23 years was "...for one purpose only. To tell about Jesus Christ," according to the ACLJ. He has also said that he has "...done this openly, in front of the government," the ACLJ reported.
 
Despite personal requests from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the government has refused to release him.

Heil also testified that Brunson has "no idea" what crime he has committed. She said he has not yet been charged with any crime.

"While Pastor Brunson has been in prison, he has lost over 50 pounds; he has lost precious time with his family that can never be replaced, and worst of all, he has lost all hope, wondering why Turkey, a NATO ally and a country that he has loved and served for over two decades, has been able to hold him hostage, an innocent United States citizen, for over a year," she continued.

Heil wrote on the ACLJ's website that she hopes Congress will respond to the testimony on behalf of Brunson and "do everything in its power to ensure Pastor Andrew's immediate release from Turkey and safe return to his family here in the U.S."

The ACLJ has a petition drive, calling for the release of Brunson. So far nearly 390,000 people have signed it.

The U.S. Helsinki Commission is also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It's an independent agency of the federal government that promotes human rights and democracy to improve security in a 57-nation region.

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