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Spy Trial Of U.S. Consulate Staffer Opens In Istanbul


The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul

A Turkish employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul has appeared in court to face charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow Turkey's government in a case that has fueled tensions between the United States and its NATO ally.

The trial against Metin Topuz, a translator and fixer for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at the consulate, opened in Istanbul on March 26.

Topuz, 59, has been held in pretrial detention since his arrest in October 2017.

He is accused of links to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Topuz has denied the allegations, and the U.S. Embassy called them "wholly without merit."

The accused faces a life sentence if convicted.

"During my 25-year service at DEA, I met a lot of police personnel and public officials and exchanged business cards with them," Topuz told the Istanbul court. "I have no duty other than serve as a translator between the interlocutors."

"I would never think I would ever be accused of these contacts," he added.

The U.S. charge d'affaires from the embassy in Ankara and the Istanbul consul-general were also at the court for the first hearing, which is expected to last three days.

Topuz's lawyer, Halit Akalp, said that he will request the release of his client.

Topuz's arrest led to the suspension of bilateral visa services for more than two months in 2017.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP