Turkey demands life imprisonment for US Consulate employee

Metin Topuz is one of three US diplomatic staff detained and accused of terrorism and espionage in Turkey.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish prosecutors demand aggravated life imprisonment for a local US Consulate employee, Metin Topuz, who they charge with espionage for a foreign nation, membership in a terrorist organization, and participation in conspiracies to overthrow the government of Turkey.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Parliament Speaker Binali Yildirim, former ministers Ali Babacan, Muammer Guler, and Zafer Caglayan – the last two themselves targets of a high-level corruption investigation in 2013 – and former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag are among 30 officials who claimed victimhood and are plaintiffs in an indictment released this weekend against Topuz.

The Turkish national who worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency in the US Consulate in Istanbul is accused of being a member of the movement of Turkish-Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based, self-exiled opponent of President Erdogan.

Separately from life imprisonment, prosecutors also asked for another 18 to 29 years for Topuz in jail over alleged crimes of “possessing private data and violating secrecy,” related to his work at the American consulate.

According to the indictment released this week after nearly 15 months of detention, Topuz “played a central role” as a liaison between the US consulate and Turkish police and judiciary officials who launched the 2013 corruption investigation against four ministers, their sons, and members of the then Prime Minister Erdogan’s inner circle.

The scandal caused a cabinet reshuffle as the government quickly suppressed the investigation, dismissed police officers and prosecutors who it said were rogue state employees with allegiance to Gulen, and sparked a now ongoing vendetta between Erdogan and Gulenists that has so far seen the unprecedented purge of some 150,000 people within the Turkish state structure.

Shortly after Topuz’ 2017 arrest in Istanbul, the US and Turkey mutually suspended non-immigrant visa services at their respective diplomatic missions for over two months.

There are currently two other US consular workers in Turkish detention, Hamza Ulucay and Nazim Mete Canturk, who are referred to as “Locally Engaged Staff, (LES)” by the State Department.

Turks claim Ulucay, a 36-year veteran employee of the American Consulate in Turkey’s southern Adana province where the Incirlik Airbase is located, is both a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen Movement, two anti-government groups with the most starkly contrary ideologies and agendas.

During the crackdown in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan, the Turkish government arrested and detained tens of Americans, most notably the missionary pastor Andrew Brunson who was released after intense diplomatic pressure and threats of sanctions from President Donald Trump’s administration last year.

An unknown number of Americans, including NASA scientist Serkan Golge, remain in jails.

In December 2018, Turkey arrested in Istanbul a US Army sergeant and translator, Yahya Ozer, who was serving at the Incirlik Airbase as part of a task force leading an air campaign against Islamic State targets in the Middle East but released him a few days later.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany