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Lawyer for U.S. consulate employee in espionage trial seeks release

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The lawyer for a U.S. consulate employee on trial charged with espionage and links to a 2016 attempted military coup said that he expected his client to be released on bail on Thursday.

The trial of Metin Topuz, a Turkish translator and fixer for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, has deepened strains in the already fraught ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

Washington says Topuz is innocent. His arrest in 2017 led to a months-long suspension of visa services between the two countries.

“We will set forth our demands today and the court will form a decision. We expect him to be released,” lawyer Halit Akalp said outside an Istanbul courtroom shortly before the start of the third day of his trial.

The judge is expected to rule on Akalp’s request at the end of Thursday’s hearing, when the next date in the trial is due to be set.

In a 78-page indictment which includes telephone calls, text messages and CCTV images, he is accused of links to officers who led a 2013 corruption investigation that implicated officials in the government of then-prime minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Akalp denies the charges, saying it was not his decision who he came into contact with through his work.

Already detained for 17 months since his arrest in October 2017, Topuz faces life in jail if found guilty of espionage and attempting to overthrow Turkey’s government.

The court on Wednesday heard from witnesses named in the indictment, some of whom are also on trial on charges related to the July 2016 coup attempt.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)

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