Turkish court rules to keep U.S. consulate staffer in jail

A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday to keep a U.S. consulate employee on trial over espionage in jail.

The court rejected a request to release U.S. consular staffer Metin Topuz, who has been jailed since 2017, as he told the judge no credible evidence had been submitted against him, news site Diken reported. 

A Turkish translator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at the consulate in Istanbul, Topuz is accused of ties to U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara says organised a failed coup attempt in 2016 to topple the government of President Recep Tayyip Eroğan. The Turkish government placed the Gülen movement on its list of terrorist organisations in May 2016.

"The charges are based on unrealistic allegations and contradictory testimonies of so-called witnesses," Topuz told the Istanbul court.

"Not one single piece of evidence has been presented to the court that would convince a rational person that I tried to destroy the Turkish republic," he added, in reference to claims made by the prosecution.

The case is among a string of developments fuelling tensions between Washington and Ankara. The NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and developments in war-torn Syria.

The trial of Topuz has been delayed as prosecutors try to locate a witness who Topuz's lawyers say has fled to Italy and has no bearing on the case.

Topuz’s next court appearance has been set for March 10.