The daughter of an American pastor detained for almost two years in Turkey on espionage charges and terror charges has revealed the devastating toll prison took on her father.

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Jacqueline Furnari said her father, Andrew Brunson from North Carolina, lost at least 50lb while in jail but he feels “blessed” to suffer for his Christian faith. 

She was quoted by the Christian Post as saying: “[He] has been permanently changed by this experience.

“Even when this ordeal is over, he will never be the same person that he was.”

On Wednesday, a court decided Brunson, who leads Izmir Resurrection Church, could leave his cell and be placed under house arrest.

Andrew and Norine Brunson/Facebook

Mrs Furnari told guests at a US State Department event raising awareness of religious persecution that missing out on time with family was the hardest part of her father’s experience in jail. 

Appearing at the inaugural State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, she also criticised the “ridiculous testimony” of prosecution witnesses called to give evidence in the trial.

She went on to say: “In his trial last week, my father forgave the witnesses who falsely testified against him, saying, ‘My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.’

“He went on to say, ‘It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.'”

Mr Brunson was arrested on 7th October 2016 and charged with links to groups the Turkish government blames for staging a coup bid in July 2016.

Supporters claim he is innocent and being used as a political pawn by Turkey as it tries to secure the extradition of controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen from the US. 

Explaining how her father had missed his daughter’s wedding and graduation, Mrs Furnari added: “These are the things that pain my dad the most – not being able to be with us and missing out on life with his family.”

Written by: Alex Williams
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