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US consular staffer to stay in Turkey detention on spy charges

Turkish citizen who translated for American drug enforcement agency accused of links to alleged mastermind of failed 2016 coup attempt

Security cars and a police officer outside Istanbul's courthouse during the trial of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the United States Consulate in Istanbul charged with espionage, March 26, 2019.  (AP/Mehet Guzel)
Security cars and a police officer outside Istanbul's courthouse during the trial of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the United States Consulate in Istanbul charged with espionage, March 26, 2019. (AP/Mehet Guzel)

ISTANBUL, Istanbul — A Turkish court rejected an appeal on Friday to free a US consular staffer on bail during an espionage trial that has deepened tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Prosecutors argued that Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen and liaison for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was a flight risk and must remain in custody in Istanbul.

His next hearing was set for September 18.

Topuz was arrested in 2017 and accused of contacts with police. A prosecutor also suspected of ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says ordered an attempted coup in 2016.

“All my contacts with those in high-ranking positions of the state at the time were entirely part of my work as a translator and assistant liaison officer at the DEA. I am innocent,” Topuz said during his last court appearance in May.

The US embassy says there is no credible evidence against him.

Topuz faces a separate investigation on charges of seeking to “overthrow the constitutional order.”

The trial comes at a time when the NATO allies are increasingly at odds over the Syrian conflict, Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the US refusal to extradite Gulen.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet his US counterpart Donald Trump on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Since the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected ties to Gulen and more than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended from public sector jobs. Gulen rejects the coup accusations.

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