Feb 23 2018

Influential Congressional Comm. weighs in on US consulate workers' arrest anniversary

U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent agency of the U.S. Federal Government that monitors compliance with the Helsinki Accords in the 57-nation OSCE region, issued a letter on detained Turkish consulate workers, asserting the commission's worries on Friday. 

"Helsinki Commissioners have raised their cases on several occasions and will continue to do so until they are released," the letter says,  "In May, the Helsinki Commission’s bicameral, bipartisan leadership led a letter with the bipartisan House co-chairs of the Lantos Human Rights Commission urging President Trump to raise Uluçay’s case directly with President Erdogan during the latter’s official visit to Washington that month."

Three U.S. Consulate workers, all Turkish citizens, are under detention in Turkey. Hamza Uluçay, an envoy for the U.S. Consulate in Adana, was arrested on suspicion of "inciting public support for PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party." While released within a week, he was re-arrested on even heavier charges, including "being a member of a terrorist organisation." 

Metin Topuz, U.S. Istanbul consulate's liaison for drug enforcement, was arrested on September 25, 2017, and charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation,” “gathering state secrets for espionage,” and “attempting to overthrow the Turkish Government, and the Constitutional Order.” Both men remain in police custody.

A third U.S. consulate liaison, Mete Canturk, is placed under house arrest on suspicion of being a member of Gulen Organisation (FETO), a group that the Turkish government maintains is behind the 2016 coup attempt.

The letter quoted Senate Commissioner Thom Tillis saying, “The harassment and detention of our consulate staff has…overstepped the bounds of diplomatic conduct among partners," while chairing the commission’s November hearing.

Senator Tillis said that the United States should “not accept anything short of true and timely justice for our detained consulate staff and our citizens behind bars,” the letter said.