A former Turkish military officer on a US-based assignment for NATO has sought asylum in the country after being recalled by Ankara in the wake of last month’s failed military coup, Reuters reported.
The asylum bid is the first known case involving an ex-Turkish military officer in the United States. Turkey began restructuring its military ranks after soldiers affiliated with FETÖ terror group commandeered fighter jets, helicopters and tanks in an unsuccessful attempt to oust democratically elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The case has the potential to strain ties between the two countries further, as Turkey has already demanded Washington hand over US-based FETÖ leader, Fethullah Gülen, who it says was responsible for masterminding the failed coup.
Two US officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the Turkish officer was working at the headquarters of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, located in Norfolk, Virginia. They did not name him or offer his rank.
However, an official at Turkey’s embassy in Washington said Navy Rear Admiral Mustafa Uğurlu had failed to report to authorities after the government issued a detention order for him last month.
Uğurlu was among hundreds of military officers who were released from their duties on July 22 a week after the failed coup.
"On July 22, on that day he left his badges and his ID at the base and after that no one has heard anything from him," the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish official said he was unaware of a subsequent asylum request. An April news article on the NATO website identified Uğurlu as the Norfolk-based command's assistant chief of staff.
The Turkish official said two other lower-level officers had also been called back from the United States.
"But there's no detention order for them," the official said. "One of them has gone back, and the other will go back shortly."