The US mission to Turkey said on Sunday it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey, on the grounds that it needed to “reassess” Turkey’s commitment to its personnel.
“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of US mission and personnel,” the statement by the mission in Ankara said.
“In order to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”
Last week, a US consulate employee in İstanbul was arrested on charges of links to the Gülen Movement, a move condemned by Washington as baseless and damaging to ties between the NATO allies.
Turkey has also suspended US visa applications in retaliation for the latest decision by the US Embassy in Ankara to suspend all non-migrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in the country. By using exactly the same wording Turkish Embassy in the US has stated Sunday that “Recent events have forced Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the United States to the security of Turkish Mission facilities and personnel. In order to minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa service at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the US. This measure will apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border.”
The US Embassy in Turkey had issued an official statement on Twitter on Thursday concerning the arrest of a locally employed staff member in İstanbul on Wednesday and had stated that “The United States Government is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a locally-employed staff member of the US Consulate General İstanbul on October 4, and by leaks from Turkish government sources seemingly aimed at trying the employee in the media rather than a court of law. We believe these allegations to be wholly without merit,” the US Embassy said on its official Twitter account, adding “Baseless, anonymous allegations against our employees undermine and devalue this longstanding partnership.”
Metin Topuz, a staff member, allegedly had regular phone calls before corruption investigations went public Dec. 17-25, 2013 with then-İstanbul Deputy Public Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz and the chiefs of police in charge of the probes.
US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass had also expressed his disturbance at the arrest of Topuz, a longtime employee of the consulate. “I am deeply disturbed that some people in the Turkish government prefer to try this case through media outlets rather than properly pursuing the case in a court of law before a judge. That does not strike me as pursuing justice, it seems to me more a pursuit of vengeance,” Bass said.
Metin Topuz was detained on Sunday under the order of the anti-terror and organized crime unit of the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office and was arrested by a court on Thursday, the Hürriyet daily reported.
As part of the investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement, the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office anti-terror and organized crime unit had filed a case against chiefs of police Yakup Saygılı, Nazmi Ardıç, Mahir Çakallı and Mehmet Akif Üner and fugitive former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz.
The Gülen movement is a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the AKP government and autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 despite Gülen’s repeated denials of any involvement.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. Turkish government has also suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants after the coup attempt.