Turkey sentences a worker at the US consulate in Istanbul to prison

A Turkish court on Thursday issued an eight-year-nine-month prison sentence against Metin Topuz, a 61-year-old local national who worked at the United States Consulate in Istanbul. The justice of the Eurasian nation has found him guilty of “helping the network responsible for the attempted coup d’état of the year 2016,” according to Reuters.

Topuz was arrested in 2017, and until now, he has remained in prison awaiting trial. Initially, he was accused of espionage and trying to overthrow the government, but in March, the prosecutor changed those charges for belonging to a terrorist organization, considered so by the Turkish authorities, which is that of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, currently based on American soil.

His work at the consulate – for more than 25 years – was dedicated to translation for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He was also a “liaison assistant” at the DEA, he explained during a previous court hearing. However, the Turkish Prosecutor’s Office claims that it took advantage of its position in the diplomatic mission to “contact officials, including police and a prosecutor, suspected of having ties to Gulen.” Topuz has defended himself against these accusations, alleging that these contacts were part of his job, since he had to coordinate with Turkish law enforcement officials.

The reaction from Washington was swift. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes that “there is no credible evidence” to support the ruling, and that “this conviction undermines trust in Turkey’s institutions and critical trust in the foundation of Turkish-American relations.”

The Embassy of the North American giant in the Turkish capital, Ankara, has also spoken in this regard, and has shown its “deep disappointment” with the decision of justice. In addition, from the diplomatic mission they hope that the sentence will be “quickly revoked”. “For almost three decades, mr. Topuz did an outstanding job appreciated and praised by officials and citizens of both countries. Under our leadership, he promoted police cooperation between Turkey and the United States, contributing to the security of people in both nations. The accusations about the official duties of mr. Topuz misrepresent both the scope and the nature of the important work carried out by our local staff on behalf of the US Government and in promoting our bilateral relationship, ”read the statement released by the Embassy.

As reported by the New York Times, this Turkish movement, which consciously damages bilateral relations between the two countries, would have occurred for one reason: to try to prevent several open legal proceedings against Turkish officials in the US. Thus, Topuz would have become a “hostage”.

In the past four years, since the attempted coup d’état, more than 70,000 people have gone through legal proceedings in Turkey.