January 30, 2019 / 2:35 PM / 3 months ago

Turkish court frees U.S. consulate employee: Anadolu

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday that a U.S. consulate employee in the southern city of Adana be released after it convicted him of membership and support for an armed terrorist organisation, state media said.

Hamza Ulucay, a translator at the U.S. consulate in Adana, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail but released by the court due to time served, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.

Ulucay was detained along with two other local U.S. consulate employees and a former Turkish-American NASA scientist in 2017 over terrorism charges. Washington wants all of them released.

During his trial on Wednesday Ulucay sought acquittal, but his request was denied and he was released with a travel ban after being sentenced, Anadolu said.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara declined to comment.

Last year, relations between Ankara and Washington neared breaking point over the two-year detention and trial of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges. Brunson, who denied the charges, was freed on Oct. 12.

While tensions eased between the NATO allies after Brunson’s release, Ankara still repeatedly demands that the United States extradite U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Gulen denies any involvement.

Since the abortive putsch, Turkey has detained 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants over suspected links to the coup attempt, according to the U.N. human rights office.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans

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