An employee of the United States' Istanbul consulate was handed eight years and nine months in prison on charges of aiding the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen who worked as a liaison for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul, was arrested on Oct. 4, 2017 on charges of espionage and having contact with Gülenists, mainly Zekeriya Öz, now a fugitive former prosecutor.
During the hearing in Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, the court board said that the accusation of "attempting to overthrow the Turkish government" turned to "aiding an armed terrorist organization" during the trial process.US consulate employee faces up to 15 years in prison in Turkey
Topuz was acquitted of "obtaining secret state information for political or military espionage," "recording personal data illegally," "obtaining or handing data against the law" and "breach of confidentiality."
The court also ruled for the continuation of his arrest.
In the previous hearing on March 10 prosecutors said espionage and coup charges should be dropped, but that he should still face up to 15 years in prison for membership of the Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Topuz maintained throughout the trial that he contacted the individuals, who at the time held high-ranking positions in the police and judiciary, as part of his job.
Topuz's trial has been one of several sources of friction between NATO allies Turkey and the United States, who have also been at odds in recent years over policy differences in Syria and Turkey's purchase of Russian missile defence systems.
US embassy 'deeply disappointed' by conviction
The U.S. embassy said it was "deeply disappointed" by Topuz's conviction. U.S. officials saw no credible evidence to support the conviction and they hoped it would be swiftly overturned, it said.
"The allegations made about Mr. Topuz's official duties misrepresent both the scope and nature of the important work undertaken by our local staff on behalf of the U.S. government and in the promotion of our bilateral relationship," it said.
Turkey's own embassy in Washington said the U.S. diplomatic mission should respect the court's judgement. The U.S. embassy's statement on the case was "not in conformity with established rules and practices governing the roles and responsibilities of foreign diplomatic missions," it said on Twitter.