Turkish gov’t detains an interpreter of US troops in Turkey over alleged links to Gülen movement

An another Turkish citizen who used to work for American official entities in Turkey was detained over his alleged links to the Gülen movement on Sunday.

According to the reports in pro-government media, Turkish security forces have detained Tevfik Mutlu as he was trying to flee to Georgia. Sabah daily, a staunch mouthpiece of despotic regime of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has reported that Mutlu was working as an official interpreter for US troops at a NATO base in the eastern city of Malatya.

Mutlu’s detention follows Metin Topuz, an employee of the US Consulate in İstanbul, who was detained on Sept. 25, 2017 for his allege links to the Gülen movement. The Sabah daily said Mutlu was working at a US company providing services at the Kürecik radar base of NATO. He was apprehended at the Sarp border crossing between Turkey and Georgia.

Sabah has also claimed that he was a user of mobile phone messaging application ByLock and he had reportedly visited Fetullah Gülen, an exiled Turkish-Muslim scholar in Pennsylvania, United States.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to the report, Mutlu’s brother Seçkin Mutlu, a police chief, was imprisoned earlier for his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Metin Topuz, an employee of the US Consulate in İstanbul, 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.”

Turkey is also accusing the United States of harboring a suspect linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In February, police detained Hamza Uluçay, a Turkish man working as an interpreter for the US Consulate in Adana for his alleged links to the PKK. Uluçay, a longtime employee of the US Consulate in the city of Adana, is accused of “inciting the public to rally” after the shooting of a senior PKK militant in anti-terror operations.

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 the PKK militants fighting Turkey.

Also, indictments in the US naming bodyguards of Turkish autocratic President 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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