Another US Consulate employee in Istanbul facing prison on terrorism charges

US Consulate Istanbul

A Turkish prosecutor has demanded up to 15 years’ imprisonment for Nazmi Mete Cantürk, a security officer at the US Consulate General in Istanbul, over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, which Turkey has designated a terrorist organization, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on July 17.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting members of the movement since two corruption investigations in 2013 -– the so-called December 17-25 corruption operations that implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and his close associates.

Dismissing the probes as a Gülenist coup attempt, Erdoğan hushed up the investigations, had the police officers and prosecutors involved in the probes arrested and designated the Gülen movement, a faith-based dissident group inspired by a US-based cleric, as an armed terrorist organization, initiating a clampdown on individuals and organizations affiliated with the movement.

The crackdown gained momentum after a 2016 coup attempt for which Erdoğan again blamed the movement.

Cantürk, who was released pending trial, as well his wife Sevim Cantürk and their daughter Kevser İrem Cantürk, both of whom are accused of similar offenses, were present at the hearing at the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court.

US Consul General Daria Darnell and other consulate employees were also in attendance.

The prosecutor cited Cantürk’s alleged links to the police officers involved in December 17-25 corruption probes and his wife’s having an account at Bank Asya, a financial institution affiliated with the movement seized by the government in 2015, as well as witness testimony to the effect that he used to read the Zaman newspaper, a daily seized by the government in 2016 over its alleged Gülen links, as evidence proving his membership in the movement.

The prosecutor sought the acquittal of Cantürk’s wife and daughter on charges of membership in the group, citing insufficient evidence.

US Consulate General staff member Metin Topuz was sentenced on June 11 to eight years, nine months in prison for aiding and abetting the Gülen movement. Topuz had been detained on September 25, 2017 and formally arrested on October 4 over his alleged links to police officers and prosecutors who initiated the December 17-25 corruption operations.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recently found that the deprivation of liberty due to Gülen links of three individuals was arbitrary, lacked a legal basis and violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It further held that those with alleged links to the Gülen movement are being targeted on the basis of their political or other opinions, constituting a prohibited discriminatory ground.

According to the UN working group none of the activities cited by the Turkish government as evidence in itself “could be construed as a criminal act, but rather as the peaceful exercise of rights granted under human rights treaties.”

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