The United States has said that it is "deeply troubled" about a Turkish court's conviction of U.S. Consulate General Istanbul employee Metin Topuz, whereas Ankara has called on Washington to "respect the independence of the judiciary as well as abstain from attempts to interfere with."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in written statement on June 11 that he hoped the conviction will swiftly be overturned.
"For nearly three decades, Mr. Topuz worked tirelessly to promote law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Turkey, contributing to the safety and security of our two countries," he also said.
Deeply troubled by the Turkish court’s decision to convict U.S. Consulate General Istanbul employee Metin Topuz. This action undermines Turkish-American relations. There is no credible evidence to support this conviction and we hope it is swiftly overturned.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 11, 2020
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 members of the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
He was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on charges of aiding the Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
In his statement, Pompeo deemed the charges against Topuz "baseless."
"The baseless charges against Mr. Topuz 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. U.S. officials observed every hearing in the trial of Mr. Topuz in Istanbul, and we have seen no credible evidence to support this decision," Pompeo said.Turkish court sentences US consulate employee Topuz to more than 8 years in jail over 'aiding Gülenists'
"As a result, this conviction undermines confidence in Turkey’s institutions and the critical trust at the foundation of Turkish-American relations," he added.
He also reiterated the United States' call on the Turkish government to resolve his case in a just manner.
Ankara urges Washington to respect 'independent, unbiased Turkish judiciary'
Shortly after Pompeo's statement, several Turkish government officials and institutions responded to the U.S. criticism, calling on Washington "to respect the independence of the Turkish judiciary."
The U.S. should "refrain from attributing political meanings to independent court rulings. It is thought-provoking that our allies, who see themselves as the guardians of the universal principles of democracy, freedoms and rule of law, ignore these fundamental principles when it comes to Turkey and inhuman terrorist organisations," said a statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on June 12.
The statement claimed that other people with links to the Gülen movement had “infiltrated” U.S. missions in Turkey and accused U.S. authorities of ignoring requests for the extradition of Gülen movement-affiliated individuals.
"We observe with deep concern that the USA has become a safe haven for the members of the FETÖ terrorist organisation," the statement read.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül insisted on June 12 that the Turkish judiciary is "independent and unbiased." "The only authority that it [Turkish judiciary] will receive orders from is the Constitution and laws. No country, person, institution or authority can affect or indoctrinate the Turkish courts' fair trials," he wrote on Twitter.
Türk yargısı bağımsız ve tarafsızdır; emir alacağı tek merci Anayasa ve kanunlardır. Hiçbir ülke, kişi, kurum veya merci Türk mahkemelerinin adil yargılamasına etki ve telkinde bulunamaz. https://t.co/nMmcBkoPqE— Abdulhamit Gül (@abdulhamitgul) June 12, 2020
The Turkish Justice Ministry similarly issued a statement on June 12 saying that the Turkish judiciary "does not have to convince a country with regards to its decions."
Turkish Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop also addressed the U.S. criticism, saying: "The world does not have to respect only U.S. courts. The U.S. has to also respect Turkish courts."
Another U.S. official who criticized the conviction was Senator Bob Menendez who said it is "a grave miscarriage of justice."
"Turkey's conviction of U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz with no credible evidence is a grave miscarriage of justice. The decision should be reversed. President Trump must step up and defend our local embassy staff in #Turkey and around the world," Menendez said in a tweet.
Turkey's conviction of U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz with no credible evidence is a grave miscarriage of justice.— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) June 11, 2020
The decision should be reversed. President Trump must step up and defend our local embassy staff in #Turkey and around the world. https://t.co/vVt6MuuTQj
The United States Embassy in Ankara said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.
It said that U.S. officials observed every hearing in the trial and they did not see credible evidence to support the conviction, adding that they hoped it will be "swiftly overturned."