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Turkey Court Convicts, Releases US Consulate Local Employee [Report]

A Turkish court on Wednesday convicted a former Turkish employee of the U.S. consulate on terror charges, then ordered his release for time served, state media reported.

Hamza Ulucay, who worked for the consulate in the southern city of Adana, has been in jail since March 2017, accused of links to Kurdish militants.

The court in the southeastern city of Mardin sentenced Ulucay to four years and six months in jail for “deliberately and willingly helping an armed terrorist organization without being a member,” state news agency Anadolu reported.

He was released for the time he had already served in jail but the court ruled that Ulucay could not leave the country, the agency added.

Turkish authorities said the employee was linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara, contacted by AFP, declined to comment.

Ulucay, who worked as a translator, is one of two Turkish employees of U.S. diplomatic missions to have been jailed.

The other is Metin Topuz, detained in September 2017 over suspected links to U.S.-based Fethullah Gulen, a cleric Ankara blames for Turkey’s 2016 failed coup. Gulen strongly denies Turkey’s claims.

The Turkish authorities have also jailed NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual U.S.-Turkish national initially jailed for seven and a half years on terror charges. The sentence was reduced to five years in September 2018.

The criminal cases have been among a number of issues causing strains between the NATO allies including the U.S. failure to extradite Pennsylvania-based Gulen.

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