A US consulate staffer went on trial in a Turkish court on Tuesday accused of spying and attempting to overthrow the government in one of several cases fuelling tensions between the United States and its NATO ally.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen and liaison with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, was arrested in 2017 and has been accused of ties to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says ordered a failed 2016 coup.
Turkish police escorted Topuz weeping into the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul, where he faces life in jail if found guilty, an AFP reporter said.
The US charge d'affaires from the Ankara embassy and the Istanbul consul general were also at the court for the first hearing which is expected to last three days.
"We expect Mr Topuz's release," his lawyer Halit Akalp told journalists, adding he had been given access to Topuz and met him twice last week.
The trial opened as relations between the United States and Turkey have worsened with disagreements over Syria's war, Turkey's purchase of Russian missiles and the US refusal to extradite Gulen.
The US embassy has called the accusations "wholly without merit".
US officials say freeing "unjustly detained" Turkish nationals on their staff is a priority, as is the case of NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual US-Turkish national jailed on terror charges.
Another Istanbul local consulate staffer, Mete Canturk, is under house arrest and facing similar charges to Topuz.
A judge in January convicted Hamza Ulucay, a former local employee of the US consulate in Adana, southern Turkey, of helping outlawed Kurdish militants. He was released for time already served.
Source: NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY