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US, Turkey Temporarily Halt Non-Immigrant Visas


FILE - A general view of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 20, 2016.

The United States announced Sunday a temporary halt to all non-immigrant visa applications from Turkey, a move that was quickly mirrored by Turkey.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said, "Recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel."

The statement did not clarify the reasons for which it is reassessing Turkey's commitment, nor did it say how long the suspension would last.

The statement added, "In order to minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey."

Hours later, Turkey retaliated by announcing its own suspension of visa services in the U.S., using language that parroted the U.S. statement and reasons for the halt.

Last week, Turkey arrested Metin Topuz, a U.S. consulate employee and Turkish national, accusing him of regular communication with alleged leading members of what Turkey has deemed a terrorist network blamed for a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year.

Turkey has blamed the attempted coup on U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies any involvement.

The Turkish government has also jailed 50,000 people in a crackdown that has also included firing tens of thousands of people from government jobs and shutting down more than 100 media outlets in response to the coup attempt.

On Sunday, prosecutors charged 11 rights activists with aiding terror groups and called for jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Those charged include Idil Eser, Amnesty International's director in Turkey, and Taner Kilic, the group's Turkey chair. A German citizen and a Swedish citizen are also in the group.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern about the charges, calling the potential sentence "unacceptable."

Amnesty International Europe Director John Dalhuisen said in a statement the Turkish indictment is "outrageous" and involved "absurd allegations" against prominent rights defenders.

"This indictment is little more than a tatty patchwork of fabrication, innuendo and untruths and is a damning indictment of Turkey's flawed justice system," Dalhuisen said. "The court must reject it in its entirety and ensure that our friends and colleagues are immediately and unconditionally released."