Turkey frees U.S. consulate employee whose jailing strained ties -Bloomberg

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish former employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul was recently released from prison, Bloomberg News said on Monday, three years after he was convicted of aiding a terrorist organisation in a case that strained bilateral ties.

A Turkish court sentenced the employee, Metin Topuz, to eight years and nine months in jail in June 2020. It was one of a series of developments that put the NATO allies at odds in recent years.

Topuz’s lawyers were not immediately available to comment on the report, which Bloomberg attributed to people with knowledge of the matter. The foreign ministry was also not immediately available.

“We are aware of reports about Metin Topuz. Out of respect for the Topuz family’s wishes, we have nothing further to offer,” a spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Istanbul said.

Topuz, a Drug Enforcement Agency liaison officer at the Istanbul consulate, was accused of links to officials found to be members of the network of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen that Turkey blames for a failed 2016 military coup.

Topuz was arrested the year after the coup attempt. He was reportedly released due to time served.

The United States said at the time of his conviction that it had seen “no credible evidence” to support the court’s decision and that it undermined confidence in Turkey’s institutions and trust at the foundation of Turkish-U.S. relations.

A Turkish court also sentenced another U.S. consulate employee in October 2020 to five years in jail for aiding the same network. A third U.S. consulate worker previously served two years in jail on terrorism charges.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alex Richardson)