Turkey wants US to review decision to halt visa services

Suzan Fraser - Associated Press
Turkey wants US to review decision to halt visa services

Members of the media work outside the United States consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. The Unites States had suspended non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey following the arrest of a consulate employee. Turkish officials say Turkey is asking the United States to reverse its decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities, saying both countries' citizens suffer from the move. (AP Photo/Neyran Elden)

ANKARA — Turkey's justice minister on yesterday said he hoped the United States would "review" its decision to suspend most visa services for Turkish citizens following the arrest of a US consulate employee in Istanbul that has deepened tensions between the two NATO allies.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities announced that a second employee of the US consulate in Istanbul had been "invited" to the Istanbul's chief prosecutor's office to testify. Authorities did not explain why. Reports say the employee is a Turkish citizen, and the prosecutor's office said his wife and child had also been detained for questioning.

The US on Sunday suspended the issuing of visas for Turkish citizens hoping to visit or study in the United States after Turkey arrested US consulate employee Metin Topuz last week on allegations of espionage.

The visa suspension prompted Turkey to immediately halt visa services in the US in a tit-for-tat response.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the embassy's second-in-charge on yesterday asking that Washington review the decision that caused "unnecessary escalation" and "victimized" both Turkish and US citizens, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said: "We hope that the United States will review this decision."

"It is Turkey's right to try a Turkish citizen for acts carried out in Turkey," he said. "Everyone should follow (legal procedures) with respect."

Despite the seemingly friendly relations between US President Donald Trump and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ties between the two countries are tense over the arrest of Topuz, a Turkish citizen, and several Americans over alleged ties to a movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for last summer's coup attempt. Gulen denies involvement.

Topuz is accused of espionage and "attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and constitution." Turkey's official Anadolu news agency reported that he allegedly communicated with former police chiefs in a 2013 corruption probe and others involved in the attempted coup using an encrypted mobile messaging application.

The US Embassy said it was "deeply disturbed" by the arrest and has complained of reports in Turkey's pro-government media that it said aimed to try Topuz in the media instead of a court of law.

Other Americans held in Turkey include Pastor Andrew Brunson who was detained last year and is accused of terror-related charges for alleged ties to Gulen's movement. Erdogan has linked the pastor's possible release or deportation to Washington agreeing to extradite Gulen to Turkey.

The Turkish lira recorded a sharp drop against the dollar on yesterday, following the mutual suspension of visa services.

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