US slams arrest of Istanbul consulate employee

US slams arrest of Istanbul consulate employee

US slams arrest of Istanbul consulate employee

An Istanbul court has arrested an employee of the United States Consulate General in Istanbul over alleged links to the followers of the U.S.-based Fethullah Gülen, with the U.S. mission criticizing the legal action in a strongly worded statement.

The employee, identified only by his initials M.T., was arrested late on Oct. 4 on several charges, including “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic,” after four days under arrest.

According to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, M.T. is accused of talking on the phone with Zekeriya Öz, a fugitive former prosecutor who was dismissed from his post, and four former Gülenist police officers, Yakup Saygılı, Nazmi Ardıç, Mahir Çakallı and

Mehmet Akif Üner, before the December 2013 graft probes.

Öz was a major figure in the December 2013 corruption cases, which targeted figures close to the government, four ministers and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The charges were dropped both at courts and in a parliamentary inquiry before Öz fled over charges of being a part of the Gülen network, which is widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt.

The consulate employee was detained under great secrecy over security reasons and was arrested four days after on charges of “political and military espionage,” “attempting to remove the constitutional order” and “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic.”

The U.S. Embassy slammed the arrest in a statement on Oct. 5, saying that Washington “is deeply disturbed by the arrest.”

“The United States Government is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a locally-employed staff member of the U.S. Consulate General Istanbul on October 4, and by leaks from Turkish government sources aimed at trying the employee in the media rather than a court of law,” read the statement, saying that the allegations on M.T. “are wholly without merit.”

“We believe these allegations to be wholly without merit. The United States will continue to engage with the Government of Turkey to ensure that employees of the U.S. Government, as well as American citizens in Turkey, are accorded due legal process in accordance with the Turkish constitution and international legal norms,” it read.

The statement said “baseless” allegations against U.S. employees harm the relations between Washington and Ankara.

“For decades, the tireless work of local employees of both countries to promote cooperation between Turkey and the United States has improved security for both our countries, enhanced business opportunities, and brought our citizens closer together. Baseless, anonymous allegations against our employees undermine and devalue this longstanding partnership,” it added.

Working for US Embassy is no guarantee of innocence: Spokesperson

Speaking about the arrest of the consulate employee, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said that “working for an embassy does not bring a presumption of innocence for anyone.”

The Turkish authorities have determined phone conversations between the suspect and Adil Öksüz, along with “others,” Kalın said in a televised interview on Oct. 5.

“There is a judicial process ongoing. I have seen the claims but I have not seen the indictment. He will be questioned. The process is conducted within the framework of the evidence,” he added.

Kalın stressed that “every state must address its own interests in international relations.”

He said Ankara has not asked for any illegal demands from the U.S. but is still “accused whenever it takes measures on issues that pose a threat to its national security.”