US Consulate employee charged with espionage

Ankara alleges that Fethullah Gulen ordered a failed coup in 2016, but he denies the claims. (Reuters)
Updated 01 February 2019

US Consulate employee charged with espionage

  • The Istanbul court ordered Topuz to remain in jail
  • He has been in custody since September 2017

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Friday accepted an indictment charging a local employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul with espionage and attempting to overthrow the government, state media reported.

Metin Topuz, who liaised with the US Drug Enforcement Agency for the American mission, is accused of having links to US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara alleges that Gulen ordered a failed coup in 2016, but he denies the claims.

The Istanbul court, which accepted the prosecutor’s indictment issued last month, ordered Topuz to remain in jail, state news agency Anadolu said. He has been in custody since September 2017.

Topuz’s trial will begin on March 26 and the first hearing will last three days. He faces life in jail if found guilty.

The consulate employee is suspected of having contacts with former police officers and a prosecutor on the run accused of links with the Gulen movement, Anadolu reported.

The agency added that the indictment claimed Topuz had “very intense contacts” with former police chiefs involved in a 2013 probe into corruption allegations that affected government officials at the time.

Ankara has dismissed that investigation as an attempted “judicial coup” against the government by the Gulen movement.

Topuz had been at the center of a visa row between Ankara and Washington in late 2017 after his arrest.

Turkey-US relations have been strained in recent years over multiple issues including the US refusing to extradite Gulen.

There was also a bitter row last summer over the detention of an American pastor, but tensions eased after his release in October.

The court’s decision comes a day after a judge in the southeastern city of Mardin convicted a former local employee of the US consulate in Adana, southern Turkey.

Hamza Ulucay was found guilty of helping outlawed Kurdish militants, and sentenced to four years and six months in jail.

But the Mardin court ruled he be released because of the time he had already served in jail since March 2017.

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

Updated 15 December 2019

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

  • Attacks came just hours after Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters

BEIRUT: Attackers in northern Lebanon set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.
The assaults came just hours after the capital Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons throughout the night to disperse anti-government protesters from the city center — the epicenter of the protest movement in Beirut — and around parliament.
The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.
In the northern Akkar district on Sunday, attackers broke the windows and torched the local office for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s political party in the town of Kharibet Al-Jindi.
In a separate attack in Akkar district, assailants stormed the local office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Their party said the contents of the office in Jedidat Al-Juma town had also been smashed and burned.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.
The violence comes a day before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister on Monday.
Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan on Sunday ordered an investigation into the clashes which she said injured both protesters and security forces. She said she watched the confrontations “with concern, sadness and shock.”
Al-Hassan blamed “infiltrators” for instigating the friction and called on the demonstrators to be wary of those who want to exploit their protests for political reasons. She didn’t elaborate.
Nationwide protests began on Oct. 17, and the government headed by Hariri resigned two weeks later.
Political parties have since been bickering over the shape and form of the new Cabinet. Protesters want a technocratic government, not affiliated with established political parties.
After weeks of back and forth, Hariri has emerged as the likely candidate for the job.