A Turkish court ordered the release of a former employee at the United States consulate in Adana previously convicted of association with a terrorist organization and sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. Hamza Ulucay was detained in 2017 along with two other consulate workers and a former Turkish-American NASA scientist. While Ulucay had sought acquittal, his sentence was reduced to time served and he was banned from traveling abroad. Relations between Washington and Ankara last year reached a near-breaking point over the imprisonment on terrorism charges of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson. At the time, President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey and threatened to fully sever ties, leading to Brunson’s eventual release. Critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan contend that he has arbitrarily jailed American citizens to use as leverage in an ongoing bid to have U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited to Turkey. Erdogan blames his former ally-turned-foe for orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, since which Ankara has detained over 150,000 people and dismissed almost the same number of civil servants over suspected links to the so-called Gulenist movement.
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