Turkey state media has announced that authorities with the Istanbul Security Directorate have arrested an American diplomat who stands accused of selling a fake passport. The Anadolu Agency detailed that a Syrian national was found with the passport while trying to fly from Turkey to Germany, after which an investigation pointed to the US diplomat who allegedly provided it.
Turkey alleges the American, who works for the US consulate in Lebanon, actually provided his own real diplomatic passport to the Syrian national while in Istanbul, and that the Syrian attempted to disguise and conceal their identity in order to get past passport control while flying out of Istanbul International Airport.
Turkey says it has video evidence of the passport being exchanged between the two individuals when the incident happened on Nov.11. Authorities say they were alerted to the scheme because the passport raised suspicion as soon as the "disguised" Syrian attempted to use it.
The American diplomat is now in Turkish jail, and it's as yet unclear if the US Embassy and State Department's will issue an official response. Likely US authorities are still gathering the facts of the bizarre, perhaps hokey-sounding narrative being presented by Turkish authorities. According to The Hill:
Anadolu Agency reported that $10,000 was allegedly found in an envelope along with a passport in the diplomat's name — who was identified by his initials, D.J.K. — after police officers conducted a body search, per the statement from the Istanbul Security Directorate.
The diplomat was jailed following the incident and remains in detention. The Syrian man was released pending a possible trial for falsifying documents, according to Anadolu Agency.
Crucially, foreign diplomats are typically supposed to be immune from arrest and prosecution, however in this case Turkey is arguing that since the American is based out of Lebanon - from which his credentials as a diplomat were originally authorized - he does not maintain immunity on Turkish soil according to local law.
While it's not the first time that a US consular employee has been arrested in Turkey - a prior 2019 case caused severe strain among the NATO allies - it does come after a series of outrageous major detention cases, most notably the Pastor Andrew Brunson detention saga which took up much US-Turkey dealings during the Trump era.
If the allegations against the US diplomat prove true, it will be deeply embarrassing for the US State Department, and without doubt Erdogan will use the humiliation for leverage. As it stands the Erdogan regime definitely needs this as a big "distraction" from his overseeing the rapid collapse of the Lira amid his latest bizarre, failed interventions to halt its plummet.