The day before the American pastor Andrew Brunson was transferred from prison to house arrest, his daughter gave an emotional speech at the US State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC, The Christian Post reports.
Jacqueline Furnari, who last saw her father in August 2017, said she had been shocked to see him in “such a poor condition”, suffering from depression and having lost hope.
“[He] has been permanently changed by this experience,” she said. “Even when this ordeal is over, he will never be the same person that he was.”
Furnari said the charges against his father were “absolutely absurd and false”.
“It is important to note that during these three [hearing] dates, there has not been one prosecution witness that has been able to provide one shred of evidence that support their ridiculous testimony – a fact that my father pointed out during the May 7 trial date and a fact that none of the judges on the panel seem to care about,” she said.
Brunson’s daughter told those present that she had bought a wedding dress and been looking forward to the wedding of her dreams; however, her father’s imprisonment changed her plans: she got married in a civil court in February 2017, but she and her husband decided to delay the church ceremony until her father will be able to walk her down the aisle.
“I am still waiting for my father-daughter dance,” she said.
She also said she knew from her father’s letters from prison that he was most upset for “missing out on spending time with family”. One of Brunson’s sons is graduating in December, and Furnari said she thought her father “would love to be at least at that one”.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, is facing terrorism and spying charges – of having links with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Ankara government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
After nearly 22 months in detention, Brunson was released on 25 July at 5.30pm from Izmir’s Kiriklar maximum security prison and transferred to house arrest following a court order responding to his lawyer’s appeal, which cited health reasons.
However, the pastor will now not be allowed to leave the confines of his home until his next hearing, scheduled for 12 October.
In March, Furnari had appealed to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to help secure her father’s release, declaring that he had been “falsely imprisoned for far too long” and “still not been formally charged with any crime”.