A Turkish admiral posted in the United States has disappeared and is reported to have sought asylum after being sought by Turkish authorities to return home and participate in legal proceedings following charges of military espionage.
Turkish Navy Rear Admiral Mustafa Ugurlu, who was working at NATO's Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia is reported to have turned in his identification papers and disappeared on July 22.
Ugurlu was ordered home by Turkish authorities last month after an attempted coup July 15. A Turkish official told Reuters news agency two other officers stationed in the United States were called back to Turkey after the coup attempt, but neither of them was ordered into detention.
A U.S. Navy official told reporters more than 100 Turkish military personnel are in the United States - some at the NATO base and some taking part in exchanges at U.S. military institutions.
Ugurlu was among hundreds of Turkish military officers released from their duties July 22.
In addition to Ugurlu, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said two colonels who had been based in Greece fled the country for Italy after being recalled due to the failed coup attempt. Cavusoglu told NTV, a private broadcaster in Turkey, that the two men, navy and land forces colonels, disappeared with their families on a ferry Saturday, August 6.
Cavusoglu said he had notified Italy of the men's disappearance and asked for their return to Turkey.
U.S. agencies such as the State Department, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Department of Homeland Security have not yet commented on Ugurlu's case. NATO has referred reporters to the Turkish government for information about Ugurlu.
In Turkey, Ugurlu was implicated along with a number of other navy officers in a 2011 conspiracy case based in Izmir. The detention order for Ugurlu, which should have forced his return to Turkey, was from that court.
Ugurlu's case could further strain ties between the United States and Turkey.
Ankara already has asked for the extradition of a Muslim cleric living in exile in the United States. It accuses cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is based in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, of the plot to take down President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The United States has replied that it must have evidence against the cleric, who is a former ally of the president, if it is to justify turning him over to Turkey.