US consular staffer to stay in Turkey detention on spy charges

An armored Turkish police vehicle stands outside the courthouse in Istanbul during the trial of Metin Topuz. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 June 2019

US consular staffer to stay in Turkey detention on spy charges

  • Topuz faces a separate investigation on charges of seeking to “overthrow the constitutional order.”
  • The US embassy says there is no credible evidence against him

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court rejected an appeal on Friday to free a US consular staffer on bail during an espionage trial that has deepened tensions between Washington and Ankara.
Prosecutors argued that Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen and liaison for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was a flight risk and must remain in custody in Istanbul.
His next hearing was set for September 18.
Topuz was arrested in 2017 and accused of contacts with police. A prosecutor also suspected of ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says ordered an attempted coup in 2016.
“All my contacts with those in high-ranking positions of the state at the time were entirely part of my work as a translator and assistant liaison officer at the DEA. I am innocent,” Topuz said during his last court appearance in May.
The US embassy says there is no credible evidence against him.
Topuz faces a separate investigation on charges of seeking to “overthrow the constitutional order.”
The trial comes at a time when the NATO allies are increasingly at odds over the Syrian conflict, Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the US refusal to extradite Gulen.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet his US counterpart Donald Trump on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Since the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected ties to Gulen and more than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended from public sector jobs. Gulen rejects the coup accusations.


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 13 November 2019

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.