Europe

Turkish admiral 'claims asylum in US' after failed coup

File pic of Rear Adm Mustafa Ugurlu Image copyright DHA
Image caption Turkish reports identified the missing rear admiral as Mustafa Ugurlu

A high-ranking Turkish military officer has reportedly claimed asylum in the United States after authorities in Turkey linked him to the failed coup.

Mustafa Ugurlu had been on a posting to a Nato base in Virginia at the time of the 15 July botched coup.

Turkey has purged its military ranks of some 100 generals accused of being part of a shadowy movement that follows a US-based Turkish preacher.

Rear Adm Ugurlu disappeared on 22 July, a week after the coup.

US officials told Reuters news agency that an unnamed rear admiral was seeking asylum, and he was later named by Anadolu Agency as Mustafa Ugurlu.

Military espionage case

It comes at a difficult moment in relations between the two Nato allies as Turkey is seeking the extradition from the US of the cleric accused of masterminding the coup, Fethullah Gulen. He denies involvement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The rear admiral had been assigned to Nato's US headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia

Two US officials told Reuters the rear admiral had been working at Nato's Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, where 26 Turkish military are posted.

In April he took part in a Nato conference in Poland and was identified as the Western military alliance's Assistant Chief of Staff for Command and Control, Deployability and Sustainability based in Norfolk.

A Turkish embassy official in Washington told Reuters that the rear admiral had failed to report for duty after a detention order was issued. "He left his badges and his ID at the base and after that no one has heard anything from him," the official said.

Rear Adm Ugurlu was named by prosecutors in the western Turkish city of Izmir, according to Anadolu, as part of a military espionage case involving the leaking of information.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A vast rally was held in Istanbul on Sunday against the attempted coup

Some 18,000 people have been placed in detention in response to the failed coup, including many from the military. The government said on Monday that more than 200 soldiers suspected of involvement in the coup, including nine generals, were still at large.

Many more have lost their jobs or been suspended across Turkey's public services, on suspicion of being Gulen followers.


More on the failed coup:

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Media captionTurkey coup soldier 'knew nothing', grieving parents say

Turkey has criticised the response of its Western partners to the events of 15 July and their aftermath.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Tuesday that if the US failed to hand over Mr Gulen "it will have sacrificed Turkey to a terrorist".

And Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned the European Union on Wednesday that it was making "serious mistakes" in its response to the failed coup. "They have failed the test following the coup attempt," he was quoted as saying in a broadcast interview.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of the Turkish president, now lives in self-imposed exile in the US

An EU-Turkey deal to halt the influx of migrants and refugees via Greece may already be in jeopardy. Another minister has warned that the agreement will be over if the EU fails to provide a date for allowing visa-free travel to EU states in the Schengen border-free area.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will back the return of the death penalty in Turkey if parliament votes for it. Such a move would automatically end negotiations for Turkey's entry into the EU, let alone the migrant agreement. Capital punishment was abolished under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Two Austrian ministers have already cast doubt this week on Turkey joining the EU in the next few years.