ISTANBUL – Turkish prosecutors ordered on Monday the arrest of a United States consulate worker in connection with last year’s failed coup in a move set to escalate a diplomatic quarrel between Ankara and Washington hours after both parties mutually imposed visa restrictions on each other on alleged security grounds.
Turkish police were unable to arrest their latest target as he remained inside US consular grounds so have instead detained his wife and son for questioning, pro-government media outlet A Haber said.
The news source said that police believed that just before the failed coup of July 15, 2016, their suspect’s wife deposited a large sum of money into a bank with ties to Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic cleric exiled in the US.
Ankara holds Gülen responsible for orchestrating the failed putsch – an accusation that he vehemently denies.
This latest police operation came almost a week after authorities arrested another US consulate employee, Metin Topuz, on the same grounds.
This prompted the US embassy to issue a statement on Sunday evening confirming that it had suspended all non-immigrant visas in its facilities in Turkey.
Ankara implemented tit-for-tat reciprocal measures in a statement released Monday morning that was almost identically to the US advisory notice in its wording.
Since the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embarked on a wave of mass arrests, the majority targeting people with suspected links to Gülen.
Ankara has on several occasions asked the US to extradite the cleric, although it has not submitted a formal request.