Report: Warrant to be issued for yet another US Consulate employee in Turkey

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The building of the Consulate General of United States in the Istinye district of İstanbul, Turkey (Sebnem Coskun / Anadolu Agency)

A detention warrant is to be issued for yet another employee of the US Consulate General in Istanbul, Washington-based reporter İlhan Tanır claimed on Twitter on Monday.

Relying on a news report published on Sunday by the pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) government Sabah daily, Tanır stated that the accusations against consulate employee Mete Cantürk are based on his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

According to the Sabah report, people who are going to the US to visit Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen are easily provided a US visa by consulate employee Cantürk.

It was claimed that a new investigation launched by the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office into a Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption probe has resulted in a detention warrant for Cantürk, who allegedly made it easier for followers of the Gülen movement to secure a US visa as long as they told him they would go to the US to visit Fethullah Gülen.

The report also claimed that consulate employee Cantürk was linked to daily Zaman Deputy Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Kamış and that he frequently visited Kamış at Zaman headquarters in the Yenibosna district of İstanbul. The report claimed that Cantürk, while driving his car, listened to Gülen’s religious speeches and sermons as well as radio stations linked to the Gülen movement, as if this constituted a crime.

Metin Topuz, an employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul, was detained on Sept. 25 and arrested on Oct. 4 on espionage charges, prompting a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Ankara.

Topuz’s arrest led Washington to suspend all non-immigrant visa services at diplomatic missions in Turkey, which was immediately followed by a reciprocal move by the Turkish Embassy in Washington to suspend visa applications from the US on Oct. 8.

Turkey accuses Topuz of links to police officers who are sympathizers of the Gülen movement, which is blamed by Turkish authorities for a failed coup last year.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Oct. 6, outgoing US Ambassador in Turkey John Bass said some in the Turkish government were motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had waited for three days before calling his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in response to a message sent by Çavuşoğlu regarding the visa crisis.

US Ambassador Bass said in a video message released late on Oct. 9 that Turkish authorities had failed to show any evidence against Topuz and that he had insufficient access to a lawyer. He also said the arrest “raised questions whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation between Turkey and the US.”

Ties between the two NATO allies were already strained over Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s presence in the US and Washington’s support for a Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey considers to be terrorist because of its links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants fighting Turkey.

Also, indictments in the US naming bodyguards of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who were engaged in violence in Washington and for the manager of the state-run Halkbank and a former Turkish economy minister accused of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran had deepened the rift.

 

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