ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Tuesday convicted a local employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul of aiding a terrorist organization and sentenced him to five years and two months in prison, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Istanbul court found Mete Canturk, a Consulate security officer, guilty of “knowingly and willingly” helping U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network, the agency said. The Turkish government accuses Gulen of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 and considers his network to be a terrorist organization.
The court acquitted Canturk’s wife and daughter of the charges, citing lack of evidence, Anadolu reported.
Canturk, who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, is expected to appeal his conviction. He will remain free pending the appeal.
Prosecutors accused him of holding frequent contacts with police officers who were also accused of links to Gulen.
In his final testimony, Canturk tearfully told the court that his meetings with the police officers were part of his duties and that he had no way of knowing whether they were involved in any criminal activity, Anadolu reported.
The arrest of Canturk and two other local employees of U.S. missions in Turkey helped stoke tensions between Ankara and Washington.
Another Istanbul Consulate employee, Metin Topuz, was convicted of charges of aiding Gulen’s group in June and sentenced to more than eight years in prison. He is appealing his case and remains free until a decision.
Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since 1999, denies involvement in the coup attempt, which killed about 250 people and injured around 2,000 others.