To celebrate the 94th anniversary of the founding of Atatürk’s republic, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement Sunday praising Erdoğan’s Turkey as a “strategic partner” in “addressing the causes of instability throughout the world” and working to “promote peace and prosperity across the globe.”
The autocrat in Ankara is not only trying to dismantle Atatürk’s secular state, but “strategic partners” of Washington don’t usually sweep up U.S. consulate employees and Americans in a paranoid purge.
Turkish authorities arrested Metin Topuz, a liaison officer at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul who has been employed there since 1994, in early October and accused him of having contacts with plotters of last year’s coup – history’s most bloated conspiracy ever, going by more than 60,000 coup-connection arrests since July 2016 – as well as claiming he was involved with the 2003 Istanbul bombings perpetrated by al Qaeda.
While Trump lauds democratic institutions in Turkey, they’re crumbling.
After Topuz’s arrest, the U.S. froze non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, and the Turkish Embassy in D.C. retaliated by suspending visa applications.
Turkish officials then went after consulate employee Mete Cantürk, first taking into custody and interrogating his wife and daughter. Pro-Erdoğan media charged that Cantürk read anti-Erdoğan newspaper Zaman, which was seized and shut by the government last year, and was friends with the editor. In case that charge isn’t silly enough, Cantürk is also accused of listening to radio stations accused of being Gülenist while in his car. Turkish officials have alleged that Cantürk used his consular job to ease access for Turks wanting to visit Erdoğan’s arch-foe, cleric Fethullah Gülen, at his home base in Saylorsburg, Pa.