“US mission staff are held hostage over Zarrab and Gülen”

An American academic charged with plotting a coup attempt against Turkey at an academic workshop in Istanbul has said the government was informed the workshop would take place.

Henri J. Barkey, a Middle East expert, told journalist Amberin Zaman that the island of Büyükada had been chosen for the workshop, which coincided with last year’s failed coup attempt, in order to get away from the hubbub of Istanbul.

Barkey also said that detained U.S. consulate staff Metin Topuz and Hamza Akçay were being “held hostage” and used as a bargaining chip over Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, who is detained in the U.S. over sanctions-busting allegations, and Fethullah Gülen, an exile preacher who is accused of masterminding the coup attempt.

Barkey was recently added as a defendant in the case of Topuz and civil society leader Osman Kavala, and stands accused of being “the international branch … of the July 15 coup attempt”, and other anti-government actions.

Barkey and other experts said they held a meeting on July 15–16, 2016 to discuss the impact on countries of the region of the nuclear deal signed between the United States and Iran. However, the pro-governing AK Party media said this was where the coup plan was hatched.

Barkey said Kavala did not attend that meeting, but said he thought the businessman and civil society activist’s name may have become linked because he came upon Kavala in a restaurant on the evening of July 18 and had a chat with him.

Barkey stressed the Turkish Embassy in Washington had been informed of the meeting, but said Turkey had its own agenda.

The government wanted to blame the U.S. for the coup, so they accused me because I was there by chance. However, it was the government itself who was first to inform journalists of that.

Outside Turkey, it is not believed that the U.S. was responsible for the coup. This has also damaged Turkey’s reputation. It is very difficult to take a state seriously when it makes up such nonsense. Moreover, what Ankara does not understand is that if you make up evidence, when you make serious requests (e.g., for the extradition of Gülen) nobody will believe in the evidence you give them. Whoever made this up might be making up other evidence, too.