Turkey convicts US consulate employee of terrorism offence

Metin Topuz was accused of links to cleric Fethullah Gülen, blamed for 2016 coup

A Turkish court has convicted a local US consulate employee in Istanbul of aiding an armed terrorist organisation and sentenced him to eight years and nine months in prison, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Metin Topuz, a translator and assistant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has been in jail since 2017, accused of links to US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government blames Gülen for the 2016 coup attempt and considers his network to be a terrorist organisation.

Topuz’s arrest and subsequent prosecution caused tensions between Ankara and Washington.

The accusations were based on his contacts with police officers believed to be members of Gülen’s vast network of followers. Topuz has maintained his innocence throughout the trial and is expected to appeal against the verdict.

The US embassy in Ankara expressed disappointment at the court’s decision.

“We have seen no credible evidence to support his conviction and hope it will swiftly be overturned,” the embassy said on its official Twitter account.

In his concluding words in his own defence before the verdict, Topuz told the court that he had been in contact with Turkish police, paramilitary police and customs officials as part of his job with the DEA and had no way of knowing that these officials were involved in criminal acts.

“As part of my duty with the DEA, under the instructions and observation of my superiors, I had thousands of contacts with 309 law enforcement officials to prevent crime,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Topuz as saying.

He added that he had committed no crime and had had no relations with Gülen’s network.

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