Senator Thom Tillis commits to helping NC pastor held in Turkish prison

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Senator Thom Tillis said he's working to help free a North Carolina, Christian pastor who has been held in Turkey since 2016.

Andrew Brunson spent over a year in a Turkish prison, and while the country's president has proposed a prisoner trade, Tillis said it would be an injustice.

He led a committee hearing on Brunson, and the detention of other American citizens on Wednesday, and told ABC11:

"As of today, Andrew Brunson has spent 404 days in a Turkish jail without trial and without access to the evidence against him. He is the subject of a vicious smear campaign in the Turkish press and facing life in prison on fabricated charges of being a terrorist and coup-plotter. It is clear President Erdogan is holding Andrew Brunson ransom and the United States should not expect - much less accept - this sort of treatment from a NATO ally. I will continue to work with the State Department and my colleagues in Congress to secure the release of Andrew so he can return to the United States as a free man."

Brunson is accused of being a "threat to national security," after a coup that erupted in Turkey last year, and was has hit with new accusations like "military espionage" this August.

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His daughter Jacqueline Funari said he's an innocent man who was trying to spread the gospel there for over 23 years.

READ MORE: A family nightmare as NC pastor held in Turkish prison

"My father is not an armed terrorist trying to throw any government," Funari said during the committee hearing. "My dad is a pastor who went to Wheaton College, then onto seminary, and got a PhD in New Testament."

"No one has seen any evidence," Cece Heil said at the hearing, who is with the American Center for Law and Justice and is representing Brunson. "And he has not been charged with any crime. He still simply a suspect."

While Brunson's fate is still unknown, others in the Triangle share his prayer.

While Jacqueline Funari is legally married, she still holding out hope that one day her father will walk her down the aisle.

"I'm still waiting for my wedding," Funari said during the hearing. "I'm still waiting to wear that wedding dress that I got almost a year and a half ago ... I'm still waiting for the father-daughter dance."


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