Turkey frees US Consular staffer whose long jailing damaged ties
Bloomberg News November 27, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — A Turkish ex-employee of the U.S. Consulate in Turkey was released from jail recently, according to people with knowledge of the matter, ending a long imprisonment that had frayed ties between the two nations.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish national who worked as a liaison for the Drug Enforcement Agency at the consulate in Istanbul, was arrested in 2017 on terrorism-related charges in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt. The U.S. diplomatic mission publicly denied the charges, demanded his release, and the issue became a bitter diplomatic spat.
Topuz was released due to time served, according to the people. The news comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is seeking F-16 fighter jets from the Biden administration as well as looking to attract foreign funds.
Topuz’s lawyers declined to comment on the matter when reached by Bloomberg via phone. “We are aware of reports about Metin Topuz. Out of respect for the Topuz family’s wishes, we have nothing further to offer,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.
Ties with the U.S. deteriorated in the aftermath of the failed coup in 2016, which Turkish officials blamed on U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and his network. Turkish authorities detained several local staffers working for the U.S. mission, accusing some of them of being part of that network.
Gulen’s movement, dubbed “FETO” locally, was listed as a terror organization by Turkey after the coup attempt. It was previously an ally of Erdogan’s government, and established strong roots in the police forces, the military and judiciary.
Relations with the U.S. were worsened further after Turkey rejected calls to free an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in late 2016. Brunson was eventually released in 2018 after the U.S. imposed symbolic sanctions on Turkish officials, with former U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to follow suit with more punitive economic measures if he wasn’t set free.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.