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US consulate employee convicted on Gülen links released after serving sentence

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A former employee of the US Consulate in İstanbul who was convicted of terrorism due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement in the aftermath of a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 has recently been released from prison after serving his sentence, Bloomberg reported.

Metin Topuz, a translator and assistant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has been jailed since 2017, accused of links to US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government blames Gülen and his followers for the 2016 coup attempt. Gülen denies any involvement.

Topuz was handed down a prison sentence of eight years, nine months in June 2020 on charges of membership in an armed terrorist organization.

Topuz’s arrest and subsequent prosecution caused tensions between Ankara and Washington.

Topuz was released due to time served, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Topuz’s lawyers declined to comment on the matter when reached by Bloomberg by phone. “We are aware of reports about Metin Topuz. Out of respect for the Topuz family’s wishes, we have nothing further to offer,” said a spokesperson for the US Consulate in İstanbul.

The accusations against Topuz were based on his contacts with police officers believed to be members of Gülen’s vast network of followers. Topuz maintained his innocence throughout his trial and appealed the verdict but the Supreme Court of Appeals, which did not overturn his sentence.

Topuz has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying he had 3,000 meetings with officials in his 25 years with the DEA and that prosecutors had simply cherry-picked those with members of Gülen’s movement.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected ties to Gülen and more than 130,000 people been fired or suspended from public sector jobs in a crackdown launched by the Turkish government following the coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

Topuz’s release comes at a time when a top US Treasury official, Brian Nelson, is set to visit Turkey this week for talks on US sanctions on Russian entities and the illicit activities of Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Economist Timothy Ash said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Topuz’s release may help improve the mood in relations between Turkey and the US ahead of Nelson’s visit.

 

However, Ali Yıldız, a Brussels-based lawyer, said on X that no special meaning should be attributed to Topuz’s release from prison as he was released after having served his sentence.

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