Ankara responds to Washington over reaction to conviction of US consulate employee
Turkey called on the United States to respect its judicial independence after Washington criticized the conviction of a Turkish national U.S. consulate employee on terror-related charges
“The rule of law prevails in Turkey and the Turkish judiciary is independent,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement on June 12.
“We are inviting U.S. authorities to respect the principle of judicial independence and stay away from any actions that may influence the judiciary,” he stated.
The U.S. has become a “safe harbor” for FETÖ members, as the U.S. falls on deaf ears for Turkey’s extradition demands for suspects of a coup attempt in 2016, he said.
“It is worrisome that our allies, who see themselves as the advocates of democracy, freedom and the rule of law, ignore these basic principles when it comes to Turkey and to misanthropic terrorist organizations,” he stated.
In a separate statement, Turkey’s U.S. Embassy responded on June 11 to its U.S. counterparts’ reaction to an Istanbul court’s ruling, urging Washington to “refrain from intervening in the legal proceedings.”
“Mr. Metin Topuz, a former Turkish staff member of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, was found guilty by the relevant court in Istanbul, for assisting the FETÖ terrorist organization. He is legally entitled to appeal this decision in seven days,” the Turkish Embassy said on Twitter.
“The statement of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, criticizing the lawful decision concerning Mr. Topuz and in this context, questioning the credibility of the court constitutes an interference in the independence of the judiciary and as such is not in conformity with established rules and practices governing the roles and responsibilities of foreign diplomatic missions,” it added.
Topuz, an employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on charges of helping FETÖ, the terror group behind a defeated 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Shortly after the verdict was handed down, the U.S. Embassy questioned the decision, saying its observers “have seen no credible evidence to support this conviction and hope it will swiftly be overturned.”
“The allegations made about Mr. Topuz’s official duties misrepresent both the scope and nature of the important work undertaken by our local staff on behalf of the U.S. government and in the promotion of our bilateral relationship,” it said.
The embassy in Washington responded, saying, “We would like to advise the U.S. Embassy to respect the decisions of the independent Turkish courts, and in any case refrain from intervening in the legal proceedings.”
According to the indictment, Topuz had been accused of having contacts with Zekeriya Öz, a key FETÖ fugitive, as well as former police chiefs and soldiers affiliated with the terrorist group and aiding in their activities.
He was also accused of four other crimes, including attempting to topple the Turkish government and espionage, but was acquitted on those charges due to lack of evidence. The court ruled for the continuation of his detention.
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the July 15, 2016 foiled coup in Turkey, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and the judiciary.