Andrew Brunson's daughter says she feels 'shock and betrayal' over his imprisonment

FILE PHOTO: Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, U.S. who has been in jail in Turkey since December 2016, is seen in this undated picture taken in Izmir, Turkey.Depo Photos via REUTERS

Jacqueline Furnari, the daughter of Pastor Andrew Brunson, has said that the family feels betrayed by the imprisonment of her father in Turkey, where he has been living for years.

Brunson, who led the Izmir Resurrection Church on Turkey's west coast, is currently being tried on charges of supposed ties to terrorist organizations. He could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted, according to World Tribune.

Last year, Furnari sent a letter to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to appeal for help in securing his father's release.

In her letter, Furnari revealed that Brunson had missed several important events in her life due to his imprisonment. The pastor was not able to attend Furnari's graduation from the University of North Carolina in December 2017. Furnari got married with her father's blessing, but she had to postpone the wedding so that he could walk her down the aisle.

Furnari said in the letter that she thought deportation would be the worst thing that could happen to her parents, who carried out missionary work while leading a church in Izmir, but the criminal proceedings have come as a shock. 

'Turkey has been home to my family. It felt like shock and betrayal,' Furnari said in an interview, as reported by News & Observer. 'My brothers and I grew up there. We went to elementary school there,' she added.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who is advocating for Brunson's release, has accused the Turkish government of holding the pastor 'political hostage.'

The lawmaker said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Brunson could be traded for Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of organizing the 2016 coup against the Turkish government.

Tillis and 66 other senators have expressed support for Brunson in a letter sent directly to Erdogan.

'I think we sent a very clear message that we're all watching,' the North Carolina lawmaker said, according to World Tribune.

Last week, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved a resolution that called on Congress to take action to secure the pastor's release, including possible sanctions against Turkey.

'There's got to be actions for Turkey. It seems to be more about politics,' said Rep. Chuck McGrady, according to News & Observer. 'I want to stand up for a North Carolina citizen,' he added.

Brunson remains in prison as he awaits his next hearing on July 18.

'My parents didn't have any plans of leaving Turkey. They were going to dedicate their entire lives to serving the people of Turkey,' Furnari said in the interview, according to News & Observer.