Turkey called Friday on the United States to respect its judicial independence after Washington criticized the conviction of a Turkish US consulate employee on terror-related charges.
An Istanbul court on Thursday sentenced Metin Topuz, a liaison officer for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at the consulate, to eight years and nine months in prison for aiding a “terror group” which Ankara blames for an attempted 2016 coup.
The ruling triggered a backlash from the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Washington was “deeply troubled” by the decision and hoped it would “swiftly be overturned.”
But the Turkish foreign ministry hit back at the comments.
“The rule of law prevails in Turkey and the Turkish judiciary is independent,” the ministry said in a statement.
“We are inviting US authorities to respect the principle of judicial independence and stay away from any actions that may influence the judiciary.”
Topuz’s lawyers have the right to appeal the verdict within a week, the ministry noted.
Topuz, who was arrested in 2017, was accused of contacts with senior police and prosecutors of the time suspected of ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the coup bid.
Ankara is frustrated with Washington’s refusal to extradite Gulen.
The foreign ministry said Turkish demands for extradition of alleged Gulen suspects went unheeded by US authorities and accused Washington of becoming a “safe harbor” for “members of FETO terror organization” — an acronym Ankara uses for followers of Gulen.