March 20 2018

Turkey issues detention warrant for another US consulate worker

March 20 2018, 11:41 | Ann Lamb

A year in Turkish prison: US works for return of WNC missionary

US mission to Turkey suspends visa services for security reasons

The move took place when the government of Turkey arrested a consulate employee of the United States in Istanbul.

Turkey's Anadolu news agency said Topuz was accused of espionage and links to the US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen.

The wife and son of the unnamed subject of the warrant, who worked in the Consulate handling issues with Turkish law enforcement, were also said to be questioned by authorities.

Turkey has carried out a widespread purge since the failed coup, detaining tens of thousands of people it accuses of having links to Gulen, including several non-diplomatic USA citizens. Gulen has denied involvement, but Erdogan has cracked down on Gulen's supporters, other political opponents and journalists since then.

Just hours after the USA mission to Turkey announced it was restricting visa services, saying that recent events had forced it to "reassess" Ankara's commitment to the security of U.S. facilities and staff, the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, hit back with an nearly identical statement.

The reason for this move is that the US previously suspended the issuance of visas to Turkish citizens. At least two Turkish citizens from the United States, who were supposedly on the other side during the brawl, were also arrested in days after the incident. "According to the government's announcement, this includes the issuance of physical "sticker" visas at border posts, and the online Turkish electronic visa (e-visa)". "Everyone should follow [legal procedures] with respect", said justice minister Abdulhamit Gul.

The first worker was held over alleged links to a cleric blamed for the failed 2016 Turkish coup, but no reason has been given for the latest action. "Delays or denial of consular access to USA citizens detained or arrested by security forces have become more common, and U.S. mission Turkey does not have consular access to arrested United States citizens who also possess Turkish citizenship".

Ankara's move came immediately after Washington's decision of suspending similar visa services for Turkish citizens.

Last week, the U.S. said it was "deeply disturbed" by the arrest of a staff member who worked at its consulate in Istanbul, rejecting accusations against him.

The diplomatic spat spooked investors.

The Turkish lira and the Istanbul borsa fell today, after the USA suspended processing of most of the new visas in Turkey. Especially hard hit were airline shares.

The central bank said it was following developments closely.

A number of U.S. citizens are being held in Turkey, including a Christian pastor.

"The [Turkish Central Bank] CBRT will need to move very quickly to calm market sentiment - if the lira continues to see selling pressure, the CBRT will have to move quickly to hike policy rates in defense of the lira", Ash added.

TUSIAD said in a statement that diplomatic processes to solve the "visa crisis" should begin immediately and that disagreements and differences should be settled with calm diplomacy.

Ankara has for months been pressing Washington to extradite Mr Gulen over his alleged role in the botched coup in July 2016.

The US embassy said it was "deeply disturbed" by his arrest.

"This harshness is a result of a build-up", Ulgen told Reuters.

Other news