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.


Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

Lebanese anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they head to the south of Lebanon on a 'revolution' bus from central Beirut on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 min 19 sec ago

Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

  • The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest

BEIRUT: A Lebanese “revolution bus” traveling from north to south to unite protesters was halted by troops outside the city of Sidon on Saturday.
The army set up a road block to prevent the bus and a large protest convoy entering Sidon, the third-largest city in the country.
Local media said that the decision had been made to defuse tensions in the area following widespread protests.
Lebanese troops blocked the Beirut-South highway at the Jiyeh-Rumailah checkpoint over “security concerns,” a military source told Arab News.
“Some people in Sidon objected to the crossing of the bus and we feared that problems may take place,” the source added.
A protester in Ilya Square in Sidon said: “Those who do not want the bus to enter Sidon should simply leave the square because there are many who want to welcome the bus.”
The army allowed the bus to enter the town of Rumailah, 2 km from Sidon. “The bus will stop here after nightfall because of security fears and the risk of an accident,” the military source said.
The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest.
Activists said the protest bus “is spreading the idea of a peaceful revolution by unifying the people.”
“The pain is the same from the far north of Lebanon to the south and the only flag raised is the Lebanese flag,” one activist said.
Organizers of the protest convoy rejected claims that the cities of Sidon, Nabatieh and Tyre were reluctant to welcome the bus, and voiced their respect for the Lebanese army decision.

After leaving Akkar the bus passed through squares that witnessed protests in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil, Zouk Mosbeh, Jal El Dib and Beirut. Protesters chanted “Revolution” and lined the route of the convoy, turning it into a “procession of the revolution.”
The bus paused in Khalde, where the first victim of the protests, Alaa Abu Fakhr, was shot and killed a few days ago by a Lebanese soldier. The victim’s widow and family welcomed the convoy and protesters laid wreaths at the site of the shooting.
Activists’ tweets on Saturday claimed that life in Beirut’s southern suburbs is as difficult as in other areas of Lebanon.
“As a Shiite girl living in the heart of the southern suburbs, I deny that we are living well and not suffering. We are in a worse position than the rest of the regions,” said an activist who called herself Ruanovsky.
“No one is doing well,” said Wissam Abdallah. “The suburbs have external security and safety, but unfortunately there is a lot of corruption. There are forged car van plates, motorcycle mafia, Internet and satellite mafia, royalties mafia, and hashish and drugs mafia. Municipalities have to deal with these things as soon as possible.”