A Turkish court has just fanned the flames of an incipient diplomatic crisis between the US and NATO’s most problematic member, when it found a Wall Street Journal reporter guilty of engaging in “terrorist propaganda” in support of a banned Kurdish organization. Ayla Albayrak was sentenced to more than two years in prison for writing a 2015 story about clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in the country’s restive southeast.
While charges have been pending against the reporter – who presently resides in New York and was convicted in absentia – for more than a year, the decision will promptly be interpreted by the US as the latest recrimination in a spat that began last week when Turkey arrested a local employee at the US consulate in Istanbul on terrorism-related charges, alleging he was a supporter of Fehtullah Gulen, an Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed for last year’s coup attempt. The arrest prompted the US to suspend visa issuance for Turkish citizens, a move that was swiftly reciprocated by the Turkish government. On Monday, Turkey announced charges against another US embassy employee, sending the Turkish lira crashing the most since the July 2016 failed “coup”, while local stocks and bonds tumbled in sympathy.
WSJ Editor in Chief Gerry Baker slammed the Turkish court’s decision” “This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report,” said Baker. “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.”
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