Turkish prosecutors seek second US consulate employee
Turkish prosecutors have summoned a local employee working at the American consulate in Istanbul, days after the arrest of another worker at the mission sparked a major crisis in relations, state media said on Monday.
The employee has been “invited by Istanbul prosecutors to give a statement”, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Turkish television, including the NTV private channel, said earlier an arrest warrant had been issued for the employee. But this was not confirmed in the Anadolu report.
However, the employee’s wife and child have been detained in the Anatolian city of Amasya on suspicion of being key members of the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup.
They have now been taken to Istanbul for questioning.
Turkey has pressed Washington for the extradition of Gulen, who denies any link to the unsuccessful coup bid against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Last week, another US consulate employee was remanded in custody by an Istanbul court, suspected of links to the group of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
The US embassy in response said its missions in Turkey would indefinitely halt all non-immigrant visa services.
Ankara responded with a statement closely mimicking that of the American embassy, saying Turkish missions in the US would suspend all visa services to American citizens.
Hurriyet daily reported on Monday that the individual wanted by prosecutors is currently taking sanctuary inside the Istanbul US consulate.
This was not confirmed by the state media reports.
The employee’s wife allegedly invested money into Bank Asya, which was owned by supporters of Gulen, Hurriyet said. Bank Asya has since been put into state administration.
In March this year, another Turkish employee at the US consulate in the southern city of Adana was charged with supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Just hours earlier on Monday, Turkey urged the US to review its suspension of visa services after the first arrest sharply escalated tensions and drove Turkey’s currency and stocks lower.
The Turkish foreign ministry summoned a US diplomat to urge the US to lift the visa suspension, saying it was causing “unnecessary tensions”.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said if Washington had serious security concerns about its missions in Turkey, steps would be taken to address them.
“But if it’s an issue regarding the arrest of the consulate employee, then this is a decision the Turkish judiciary has made,” Gul told A Haber television. “Trying a Turkish citizen for a crime committed in Turkey is our right.”
The diplomatic row spooked investors. The lira dropped 2.4 per cent against the dollar and the main BIST 100 stock index fell as much as 4.7 per cent before rebounding slightly.
US-Turkish tensions have risen in recent months over US military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK which has waged an insurgency for three decades in southeast Turkey.
Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, viewed in Ankara as the mastermind behind the failed coup in which more than 240 people were killed. Gulen denies any involvement.
Sinan Ulgen, an analyst and former Turkish diplomat, said those underlying disputes had created a “crisis of confidence” which made this latest fallout particularly bitter.
“This harshness is a result of a build-up,” he said. “We should not consider this as solely a reaction to the detentions of consulate employees”.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters