‘Respect judicial freedom over US consulate employee’s conviction’

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Ankara, June 13 : Turkish Foreign Ministry called on the United States to respect its judicial independence after Washington criticized a court ruling of a Turkish US consulate employee over terror-related charges.

“The rule of law prevails in Turkey and the Turkish judiciary is independent… We ask the US authorities to respect the principle of judicial independence and stay away from any actions that may influence the judiciary,” Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a written statement on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The spokesperson blamed the US for becoming a “safe harbour” for members of Gulen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016. He recalled that the US ignored Turkey”s demand for the extradition of the Gulen movement members.

“It is worrisome that our ally, who sees itself as the advocate of democracy, freedom and the rule of law, ignores these basic principles when it comes to Turkey and terrorist organisations,” Aksoy said.

Metin Topuz, an employee of the US consulate in Istanbul, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on Thursday over charges of aiding the followers of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher who is accused in Turkey of being the mastermind of the 2016 coup attempt.

The US Embassy in Ankara on Thursday tweeted that they are “deeply disappointed” at the decision. “We have seen no credible evidence to support this conviction and hope it will be swiftly overturned,” said the statement.

“For nearly three decades, Topuz performed outstanding work appreciated and lauded by officials and citizens of both countries. Under our direction, he promoted law enforcement cooperation between Turkey and the US, contributing to the safety of people in both nations,” the statement said.

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