Turkish court sentences US consulate employee to jail

Metin Topuz was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for aiding a ‘terrorist’ organisation.

Security sources say the Iranian intelligence gave the instructions for the abductions [File: Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]
The US embassy has repeatedly said there is no credible evidence against its employee [Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]

A Turkish court sentenced a US consulate employee to eight years and nine months in jail on Thursday for aiding a “terror” organisation, a development that could further strain frayed ties with Washington.

The United States said it was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

“US officials observed every hearing in the trial of Metin Topuz in Istanbul, and we are deeply disappointed in today’s decision,” the embassy said on Twitter.

“We have seen no credible evidence to support this conviction and hope it will swiftly be overturned.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said Washington was “deeply troubled” by the decision and hoped it would “swiftly be overturned.”

The Turkish foreign ministry on Friday hit back at the comments.

“The rule of law prevails in Turkey and the Turkish judiciary is independent,” it said in a statement. “We are inviting US authorities to respect the principle of judicial independence and stay away from any actions that may influence the judiciary.

Topuz‘s trial has been one of several sources of friction between NATO allies Turkey and the US, who have also been at odds in recent years over policy differences in Syria and Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defence systems.

Topuz, who has been in jail for more than two and a half years while facing trial, was initially accused of espionage and trying to overthrow the government.

A prosecutor said in March he should be acquitted on those charges and instead be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for membership of a “terrorist organisation”.

Two lawyers for Topuz were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

In a 78-page indictment that included telephone calls, text messages, and security camera images, Topuz was accused of links to officials who led a 2013 corruption investigation and were later found to be members of the network of US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen, which Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup.

A translator and fixer for the US Drug Enforcement Agency at the US consulate in Istanbul, Topuz maintained throughout the trial that he contacted the individuals, who at the time held high-ranking positions in the police and judiciary, as part of his job.

Gulen, a businessman, has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999 and has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.

The US embassy, whose staff regularly attended the hearings in support of Topuz and his family, has said there is no credible evidence against him.

Source: News Agencies