Turkey convicts, releases U.S. consulate staffer

A Turkish court on Wednesday convicted a translator for the U.S. consulate in Adana on terrorism charges before ordering him released, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The court in Mardin province convicted Hamza Uluçay of “aiding an armed terror organisation” and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison. Uluçay has denied the charges and repeatedly called for his release, which the court has repeatedly denied.  

The court imposed a travel ban, but released him with credit for the nearly two years he was in detention, Anadolu said.

Uluçay had been working as a translator at the U.S. Consulate in Adana for 36 years when he was detained on Feb. 23, 2017 for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant organization that has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy for decades.

Police said that during searches at Uluçay’s residence, they seized evidence proving his ties to the group, as well as evidence linking him to Fethullah Gülen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric whom Turkey blames for masterminding the 2016 failed coup.

Uluçay is not the only U.S. consular employee charged with terrorism in Turkey. Metin Topuz and Nazmi Mete Cantürk are still under investigation for alleged attempts to undermine the Turkish government.

The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey after its consulate employees and American citizens, notably pastor Andrew Brunson, were imprisoned in the country. Last October, Turkey also convicted Brunson on terrorism charges after two years in detention, before releasing him.