US consular staffer to stay in Turkey jail on spy charges

People walk by police barriers next to Istanbul's courthouse on September 18, 2019, during the trial of a US consulate staffer accused of spying and attempting to overthrow the government, in Istanbul. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

US consular staffer to stay in Turkey jail on spy charges

  • Since the failed 2016 coup, tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected ties to Gulen

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday that a US consular staffer would remain in jail while his espionage trial continued, in a case that has added to tensions with Washington.

Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen and liaison for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was arrested in 2017.

He was accused of ties to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says ordered an attempted coup in 2016.

In court on Wednesday, Topuz again begged the court for his release.

“What is my crime? Being an employee of the US Consulate?” he said.

But the court said he would stay in jail until the next hearing on Dec. 11, while they tried to locate a witness. Defense lawyers said he gave a fake address in Milan.

“I cannot understand the court extending the jail sentence to wait for an individual who is currently abroad,” lawyer Halit Akalp told reporters.

Topuz said he had 3,000 meetings in his 25 years with the DEA, and that prosecutors had simply cherry-picked those with members of Gulen’s movement.

Gulen had sympathizers across all branches of Turkish society and government until the coup triggered a massive purge.

“I had face-to-face meetings and telephone contact with individuals appointed by the Turkish republic as an assistant liaison officer and translator,” Topuz told the court.

“All the allegations against me are based on telephone contacts with individuals appointed by the Turkish republic.”

The case comes at a sensitive diplomatic moment between the NATO allies.

Washington’s refusal to extradite Gulen, differences over the Syrian conflict, and Turkey’s recent decision to buy a Russian missile defense system have all strained relations between the two countries.

Since the failed 2016 coup, 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.


Amnesty slams Qatar tracing app for exposing data of a million users

Updated 27 min 30 sec ago

Amnesty slams Qatar tracing app for exposing data of a million users

  • Glitch made users’ ID numbers, location, infection status vulnerable to hackers
  • More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for

DOHA: A security flaw in Qatar’s controversial mandatory coronavirus contact tracing app exposed sensitive information of more than one million users, rights group Amnesty International warned Tuesday.
The glitch, which was fixed on Friday after being flagged by Amnesty a day earlier, made users’ ID numbers, location and infection status vulnerable to hackers.
Privacy concerns over the app, which became mandatory for residents and citizens on pain of prison from Friday, had already prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions.
Users and experts had criticized the array of permissions required to install the app including access to files on Android devices, as well as allowing the software to make unprompted phone calls.
Despite insisting the unprecedented access was necessary for the system to work, officials said they would address privacy concerns and issued reworked software over the weekend.
“Amnesty International’s Security Lab was able to access sensitive information, including people’s name, health status and the GPS coordinates of a user’s designated confinement location, as the central server did not have security measures in place to protect this data,” the rights group said in a statement.
“While Amnesty International recognizes the efforts and actions taken by the government of Qatar to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to date, such as access to free health care, all measures must be in line with human rights standards.”
More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for the respiratory disease — 1.7 percent of the population — and 28 people have died.
Like other countries, Qatar has turned to mobiles to trace people’s movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor coronavirus infections and flag possible contagion.
“The Ehteraz app’s user privacy and platform security are of the utmost importance,” Qatar’s health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“A comprehensive update of the app was rolled out on Sunday May 24 with expanded security and privacy features for all users.”
But Etheraz, which means “Precaution,” continues to allow real-time location tracking of users by authorities at any time, Amnesty said.
“It was a huge security weakness and a fundamental flaw in Qatar’s contact tracing app that malicious attackers could have easily exploited,” said Claudio Guarnieri, head of the group’s security lab.
“The Qatari authorities must reverse the decision to make use of the app mandatory,” he said.