The trial of Metin Topuz, a translator and fixer for the US Drug Enforcement Agency at the US consulate in Istanbul, opened in the city on Tuesday. Topuz is accused of a role in a 2013 "judicial coup" against the government.
A Turkish employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul appeared in court on Tuesday charged with espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government in a case that has frayed ties between the two NATO allies.
The trial of Metin Topuz, a translator and fixer for the Drug Enforcement Agency at the consulate, opened in Istanbul nearly a year and a half after his arrest in October 2017.
He has been held in pre-trial detention since then.
In early February, a court committed Topuz to trial after accepting a 78-page indictment alleging Topuz had "very intense contacts" with police officers who led a 2013 corruption investigation involving top government officials and their families.
The government has termed that investigation an attempted "judicial coup" that was carried out by US-based Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen and his followers whose movement also attempted to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016.
Topuz, 59, denies the allegations. He faces a life sentence if convicted.
"I would never have thought I'd be blamed for my translation work," Topuz said.
Topuz's detention contributed to the suspension of bilateral visa services between the US and Turkey for more than two months in 2017 and is one of several contentious issues that have increased tensions between Ankara and Washington in recent years.
They include US support for the YPG/PKK terror group in Syria, and Washington's refusal to extradite Gulen for trial in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt.
Among the 30 complainants against Topuz are Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former ministers.
Topuz began working at the consulate in 1982 as a switchboard operator and was promoted to work as an assistant and translator to the DEA's US personnel in Turkey a decade later.
"During my 25 years of work with the DEA, I have met many police officers and public officials, exchanging numbers and business cards," Topuz said in his trial testimony.
He explained that his work for the DEA involved contacts with Turkish security forces, especially narcotic officers, in drug-related investigations and informational exchanges on combatting drug use.
Topuz said he was also involved in security preparations during visits by US presidents.
Topuz argued that the prosecutor only took into account contacts he had with officers allegedly linked to Gulen and ignored conversations he had with hundreds of other officers.
Topuz said he communicated with public employees of the Turkish state and cannot be expected to know or identify officers with alleged links to Gulen.
The indictment includes telephone calls, text messages, CCTV frame grabs with suspected police officers, along with testimonies from four witnesses and two suspects.
He's also accused of privacy violations and illegally recording personal data.
Speaking to journalists before the trial, Topuz's lawyer, Halit Akalp, said the defence team would request his release.
"Our expectation is Mr Topuz's release," the lawyer said.
The Turkish government declared Gulen and his network a terror group in 2014 following the anti-corruption investigations.
Tens of thousands of police officers have been dismissed and many were arrested for links to what Ankara calls the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).
Turkey is demanding that the US extradites Gulen, who lives in the state of Pennsylvania.
The first hearing for Topuz is expected to continue until Thursday.