Claims that US con­sulate em­ployee de­nied le­gal ac­cess far from truth

With the visa sus­pen­sion row be­tween Turkey and the U.S. on­go­ing, Pres­i­dent Er­doğan re­sponded to claims that the ar­rested U.S. Con­sulate em­ployee was not given any le­gal ac­cess, adding that U.S. Am­bas­sador Bass is re­spon­si­ble for the soured bi­lat­eral ties

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - MERYEM İLAYDA AT­LAS – PRES­I­DEN­TIAL PLANE

PRES­I­DENT Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, on his way back from Ser­bia yes­ter­day, pushed back against claims that Metin Topuz, an em­ployee at the U.S. Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, who was ar­rested by a Turk­ish court on charges of col­lu­sion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ), was de­nied le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion or ac­cess to his lawyer. He added that from the date of the em­ployee’s ar­rest, Oct. 4, un­til Oct. 10, “no ap­pli­ca­tion was made to the Is­tan­bul Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice to gain ac­cess to him, nei­ther by his fam­ily nor by his lawyer. If they had, our stance is clear. They can, of course, speak with him.” For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Topuz had asked for his lawyer on Wed­nes­day and he would be meet­ing with him on Fri­day. Fol­low­ing the U.S.’s sus­pen­sion of visa ap­pli­ca­tions, Ankara re­sponded in kind, halt­ing visa ser­vices in the U.S. Er­doğan said that U.S. Am­bas­sador John Bass per­son­ally sab­o­taged bi­lat­eral ties. Speak­ing at a meet­ing with provin­cial gover­nors at the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Beştepe, Ankara, Er­doğan re­it­er­ated that Bass af­fects Turk­ish-U.S. ties neg­a­tively, adding that it is not ac­cept­able “for the United States to sac­ri­fice a strate­gic part­ner to an am­bas­sador who doesn’t know his place.”

PRES­I­DENT Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, speak­ing to re­porters on his re­turn flight from Ser­bia early yes­ter­day, said no one had de­nied ac­cess to a Turk­ish em­ployee from the U.S. Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, who was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of ter­ror­ism-linked crimes, adding that claims to the con­trary were false.

Metin Topuz was de­tained in late Septem­ber be­fore be­ing ar­rested on Oct. 4, on charges of col­lu­sion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with mem­bers of the Gülenist Ter­ror­ist Group (FETÖ). Re­ports say he has been a con­sulate em­ployee since 1982, and that he told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he works for the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DEA). Prose­cu­tors claim there is direct ev­i­dence of con­tacts be­tween Topuz and hun­dreds of FETÖ sus­pects. The U.S. Em­bassy in Ankara was quick to de­nounce the ar­rest it claimed was on "anony­mous, base­less al­le­ga­tions" in a state­ment last week be­fore an­nounc­ing a sus­pen­sion of all non-im­mi­grant visas at its mis­sions in Turkey on Sun­day. Ankara sub­se­quently im­posed a sim­i­lar visa ban on U.S. na­tion­als com­ing to Turkey.

Claims that Topuz was de­nied ac­cess to lawyers or fam­ily was patently false, Er­doğan as­serted. “The ar­rest took place on Oct. 4. From then un­til Oct. 10, no ap­pli­ca­tion was made to the Is­tan­bul Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice to gain ac­cess to him, nei­ther by his fam­ily nor by his lawyer. If they had, our stance is clear. They can, of course, speak with him.”

For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was with the pres­i­dent at the ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion on the pres­i­den­tial plane, said Topuz had asked for his lawyer on Wed­nes­day and he would be meet­ing with his lawyer on Fri­day [To­day].

Also, any ar­rest by the court ne­ces­si­tates the pres­ence of the lawyer of the sus­pect, so on Oct. 4, Topuz’s lawyer should have been present at the side of his client.

Turkey has been wag­ing a com­pre­hen­sive le­gal and se­cu­rity of­fen­sive against FETÖ, which is ac­cused of car­ry­ing out last year’s deadly coup at­tempt. The group’s leader, Fe­tul­lah Gülen, cur­rently lives in his huge com­pound in Penn­syl­va­nia, U.S., and suc­ces­sive U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions have taken no ac­tion to ex­tra­dite him de­spite re­peated re­quests from Ankara.

To­gether with the PKK’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD) and its Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG), which is sup­ported by the U.S. in the fight against Daesh in north­ern Syria, FETÖ re­mains the main stum­bling block in im­prov­ing ties be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton.

Er­doğan claimed U.S. Am­bas­sador John Bass was the sole cause of the lat­est cri­sis be­tween the two coun­tries, adding: “He is leav­ing in a few days any­way.”

The am­bas­sador caused the cri­sis be­tween Turkey and the U.S. and nat­u­rally he could not be trusted to over­see ef­forts to re­solve the mat­ter, Er­doğan con­tended, ar­gu­ing that the com­mis­sion agreed to be­tween Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son would meet in the com­ing days to fo­cus on the is­sue.

REC­I­PROC­ITY NOT RE­TAL­I­A­TION

Once the U.S. had sus­pended visa ser­vices at its mis­sion in the coun­try, Turkey, as a coun­try with a cen­tury-old tra­di­tion of diplo­macy, had no op­tion but to re­spond in kind as part of the prin­ci­ple of rec­i­proc­ity, the pres­i­dent said. Er­doğan also dis­missed the ar­gu­ment that Turk­ish per- son­nel work­ing at em­bassies could not be de­tained or ar­rested. “If some­one com­mit­ted a crime, they will most def­i­nitely be pros­e­cuted.”

He also re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion that Ankara re­tal­i­ated. “Turkey is a coun­try gov­erned by the rule of law. It doesn’t re­tal­i­ate.”

How­ever, he also voiced a list of grieves that, he ar­gued, demon­strated the U.S. fail­ure to abide by the same prin­ci­ples.

He said Ira­nian-Turk­ish busi­ness­man Reza Zarrab, de­tained by cus­toms of­fi­cials on charges of vi­o­lat­ing the U.S. em­bargo on Iran, was de­tained al­most two years ago but still had not faced a court. He also cited the ar­rest of the deputy gen­eral man­ager of Halk­bank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who went to the U.S. six times with­out any prob­lems, but was ar­rested the sev­enth time on sim­i­lar charges.

He also took is­sue at the charges laid against 13 of his body­guards for the al­ter­ca­tion with what he called PKK sup­port­ers dur­ing his visit to Wash­ing­ton in May. “Some weren’t even in the U.S. at the time. Some were with my wife, nowhere near the scene. No one can ex­plain to me what all this is. They make a show of de­tain­ing a cou­ple of ter­ror­ist group mem­bers who tried to at­tack me be­fore re­leas­ing them, but two pa­tri­ots who re­sisted the at­tack­ers are still in jail.”

He said such con­duct is un­ac­cept­able, as was the way the U.S. treats FETÖ sus­pects.

“There are FETÖ agents work­ing at their con­sulates. These are not diplo­mats but agents. Sim­i­lar agents are in the U.S., in very close re­la­tions with U.S. Congress,” he railed.

He said Gülen was kept safe in Penn­syl­va­nia, and al­lowed to rule over his crim­i­nal net­work.

Er­doğan said he could not un­der­stand how U.S. au­thor­i­ties could ig­nore 85 boxes full of ev­i­dence he said proves Gülen’s com­plic­ity in last year’s coup at­tempt and pre­vi­ous crimes.

“Sorry, but such be­hav­ior is un­be­com­ing of a strate­gic ally. Ad­di­tion­ally, what we are see­ing in Syria is also clear. They sup­port a ter­ror­ist group [YPG] to fight an­other ter­ror­ist group [Daesh]. They armed one ter­ror­ist group, telling us that they recorded each se­rial num­ber of every weapon and will be col­lect­ing them back once the fight­ing ends. Such state­ments are not plau­si­ble. Could they col­lect the weapons in Iraq? No. What they do is noth­ing but strength­en­ing the ter­ror cor­ri­dor along north­ern Syria.”

When asked about a YPG del­e­ga­tion hosted in Moscow, Er­doğan said he did not know the con­text of the visit. “We just know that it hap­pened. Is this a par­tic­u­lar Rus­sian ma­neu­ver? We’ll get the de­tails from in­tel­li­gence.”

RE­VI­TAL­IZ­ING THE AK PARTY

The pres­i­dent, who is also the chairman of the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) said its lo­cal branches are un­der­go­ing a much-needed re­newal process in prepa­ra­tion for the lo­cal, na­tional and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in March 2019.

He said that the res­ig­na­tion of Kadir Top­baş as mayor of the Greater Is­tan­bul Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity was part of this process and would be re­peated across the coun­try.

There was se­ri­ous pres­sure from the party base for the lead­er­ship to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to re­vi­tal­ize lo­cal party hierarchies, he said. “Dec­la­ra­tions such as any­one elected to of­fice can only be removed through elec­tions are not ap­pli­ca­ble here. These may­ors are se­lected through party by-elec­tions. There are may­ors who have been serv­ing for 20, 23 and even 24 years. There is no rule that a mayor will serve three terms.”

He said the cal­cu­la­tions were based on vot­ing trends in pre­vi­ous elec­tions and if the party’s sup­port is de­creas­ing, it shows that change is needed.

The party lead­er­ship will be de­cid­ing on how to pro­ceed, Er­doğan said, ask­ing may­ors to ac­cede to the party’s de­ci­sions with grace, as Top­baş had.

When asked about his meet­ing last week with Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, who has been in his post since 1994, Er­doğan said the meet­ing cen­tered on the planned mu­seum and Mar­tyrs Park next to the Pres­i­den­tial Palace com­plex in Ankara. “How­ever, we also had the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss the mat­ters I men­tioned be­fore. As I said, this is not limited to Melih Gökçek. For ex­am­ple, when asked, the may­ors of Düzce and Niğde had no ob­jec­tion. We hope to con­clude our dis­cus­sions in the com­ing weeks and pro­ceed ac­cord­ingly. Time is of the essence.”

When asked if there are any may­ors who ob­jected to the res­ig­na­tion on their own ac­cord apart from those in Ankara and Balıke­sir, Er­doğan also in­cluded the mayor of Bursa.

UKRAINE AND SER­BIA

Er­doğan was speak­ing to re­porters after a three-day visit to Ukraine and Ser­bia.

In Ukraine, he signed nine agree­ments to fur­ther de­velop com­mer­cial ties to in­crease bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume to $10 bil­lion by 2023 from the cur­rent level of around $4 bil­lion.

There were also dis­cus­sions con­cern­ing co­op­er­a­tion in the de­fense sec­tor, the pres­i­dent added, es­pe­cially in the joint man­u­fac­ture of mo­tors, planes, drones, rock­ets and other weapons sys­tems.

To help the Crimean Tatar com­mu­nity in Ukraine, Turkey had pledged to build a mosque in Kiev, he said, adding that the project was await­ing the al­lo­ca­tion of a plot of land by Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties.

On his visit to Ser­bia, the most im­por­tant of­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment was the com­mence­ment of the High-Level Strate­gic Coun­cil. “We signed 16 sep­a­rate agree­ments with Ser­bia dur- ing the visit. We will in­crease bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume to first $3 bil­lion and then $5 bil­lion.” He said the two coun­tries agreed to in­crease co­op­er­a­tion in en­ergy, es­pe­cially con­cern­ing the build­ing of the Trans-Adri­atic Pipe­line (TAP) and the Tran­sA­na­to­lian Nat­u­ral Gas Pipe­line Project (TANAP)

He also noted the huge in­ter­est gen­er­ated among Ser­bian of­fi­cials for an im­proved land trans­porta­tion net­work be­tween Ser­bia, Turkey, Al­ba­nia and Bul­garia.

Ser­bian Pres­i­dent Alek­san­dar Vu­cic also shared his de­ter­mi­na­tion to erad­i­cate FETÖ in the re­gion, Er­doğan said.

Er­doğan men­tioned the plea­sure of vis­it­ing Novi Bazaar, where he met with the mayor and min­is­ters. “One agree­ment we signed there is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for us. It will al­low us to ren­o­vate the his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments there.” The Turk­ish Co­op­er­a­tion and Co­or­di­na­tion Agency (TİKA) will be more ac­tive in that re­gion, the pres­i­dent said.

“We also promised our help in the build­ing of the Bel­grade-Sara­jevo high­way, which faces some prob­lems. Serbs want in to pass the Sand­jak re­gion while Bos­ni­ans want it to pass through Tu­zla. They gave us maps, which we will study.” The high­way is im­por­tant to re­ju­ve­nate the economies of the whole re­gion and that needs to be taken into ac­count, Er­doğan said.

Turkey pre­sented Vu­cic with a plan to please both Serbs and Bos­ni­ans, Er­doğan said. “We want these to be­come peace high­ways be­tween Serbs, Bos­ni­ans and Croats. I think I per­suaded the pres­i­dent. He told me that he will study our pro­pos­als.”

“The way they treated us in Novi Bazaar was in­cred­i­ble,” he added.

Con­cern­ing the sur­prise some EU of­fi­cials voiced about the way he was treated in Ser­bia, Er­doğan said: “It is only nat­u­ral for them to feel that way. They see the Balkans as their back­yard. That’s why they’ll be an­noyed. Let them be an­noyed. We have no in­ten­tion of ask­ing for their ap­proval. I in­vited Vu­cic to Turkey. Hope­fully, he will come be­fore next May.”

S-400 PROJECT GO­ING AC­CORD­ING TO PLAN

When asked if there were any glitches af­fect­ing Ankara’s plan to pur­chase the S-400 mis­sile de­fense sys­tem from Rus­sia or whether Turkey is in­ter­ested in U.S. Pa­triot mis­sile sys­tems, Er­doğan said there were no prob­lems in the S-400 pro­gram.

“The first batch will be pro­duced by Rus­sia alone, but we hope to pro­duce the sec­ond batch to­gether. As per our dis­cus­sions with [Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir] Putin, we have no in­ten­tion to limit our co­op­er­a­tion on the S-400 sys­tems. We had some talks about the S-500 sys­tems and we hope to make some progress in that re­gard. We have no in­ter­est in the Pa­triot sys­tems, which are be­com­ing dated.”

THE BARZANI PROB­LEM

Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment ( KRG) Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani’s de­ci­sion to hold an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum will re­sult in all doors to the out­side world be­ing shut, Er­doğan as­serted. “We, to­gether with Iran, are de­ter­mined to pro­ceed in this re­gard. I will meet with our of­fi­cials to­mor­row [Fri­day] and pro­ceed ac­cord­ingly.”

He said hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to the peo­ple of the KRG would be given to Baghdad, which will find ways to dis­trib­ute it. “We have al­ready stopped all flights to the KRG. Soon we will take ac­tion against all flights go­ing to Ir­bil and Su­lay­maniyah. We hope the mat­ter is re­solved be­fore we need to take any more ac­tion.”

The peo­ple of the KRG were pay­ing for the mis­take com­mit­ted by their lead­er­ship, Er­doğan ar­gued. “All doors to the out­side world are shut. What will they do but rebel?”

Er­doğan said de­lay­ing in­de­pen­dence is un­ac­cept­able. “What we want is a re­turn to the sta­tus quo as it was be­fore the vote. There is one rea­son why the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated so far, and that is that the KRG lead­er­ship is find­ing it hard to pre­serve its sta­tus. It com­mit­ted a bla­tant mis­take for in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. They sim­ply sac­ri­ficed all for do­mes­tic pol­i­tics and their per­sonal in­ter­ests.”

De­part­ing U.S. Am­bas­sador to Ankara John Bass

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan said the sole cause of the visa cri­sis be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton was out­go­ing U.S. envoy John Bass

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.