Turkey issues detention warrant for another US Consulate staff member

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The building of the Consulate General of United States in the Istinye district of İstanbul, Turkey (Sebnem Coskun / Anadolu Agency)

Amid a visa crisis with the US over the arrest of a Turkish national working at the İstanbul Consulate General last week, local media reported that Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant for another US Consulate staff member on Sunday morning.

According to a report by the Hurriyet daily, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for a Turkish national who works in a consulate department handling issues with Turkish law enforcement. The police were unable to detain him because he has remained in the consulate building. According to the report, the wife of the staff member opened a bank account at Bank Asya, which was seized in 2015 by the Turkish government after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly targeted it.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said he was not aware of a decision for the detention or arrest of a second US Consulate employee.

Istanbul Consulate General staff member Metin Topuz was arrested late on Oct. 4 on espionage charges and alleged links to some leading members of the Gülen movement.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Friday, John Bass, the departing US ambassador to Turkey, said some in the Turkish government are motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

The US Embassy in Ankara on Sunday announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

“Recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of US Mission facilities and personnel. In order to minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”

Hours after the release of the statement, the Turkish Embassy in Washington announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all Turkish diplomatic missions in the US.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington retaliated by copying and reversing the US statement.

“This measure will apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border,” the Turkish Embassy added in its statement.

The US decision prompted reactions among ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) circles. Linking the US decision to the Turkish military operation in Idlib in Syria, Hamza Dağ, deputy chairman of the AKP, on his Twitter account called on John Bass, the departing US ambassador to Turkey, to leave the country, saying “Piss off!” and mentioning the US Embassy Twitter account.

Burhan Kuzu, senior member of the AKP and former top adviser of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, reacted to the decision on Twitter: “Our military walking all over the US in Syria has disturbed the US. Cowards die many times before their deaths. You will not stop the rise of Turkey.”

Describing the visa decision as a reaction to the revelation of relations between the Gülen movement and the US, pro-government journalist Halime Kökçe on Twitter called on the new ambassador who will replace Bass not to come to Turkey.

While Barış Ertem, an academic at Istanbul Technical University, called on the US mission to completely leave Turkey and declared people who have rationalized US decision “traitors,” Islamist journalist Adem Özköse tweeted: “Yankee Go Home… Close Incirlik Air Base…”

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