An American diplomat working for the U.S. consulate in Lebanon has been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of selling a fake passport for $10,000 to a Syrian national, Turkey’s state news agency said on Wednesday.
According to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, which cited a statement from the Istanbul Security Directorate, the diplomat and the Syrian national were arrested after the latter allegedly tried to travel to Germany using the passport, which had been issued to the diplomat, from Istanbul International Airport on Nov. 11.
The statement said that security camera footage of the individuals showed the two meeting at the airport and exchanging clothes with one another, per Anadolu Agency.
The police said they had video evidence of the diplomat handing over the diplomatic passport, which had been identified as suspicious at passport control, Reuters reported.
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.
The news agency added that while foreign diplomats usually have immunity from prosecution, they are subject to prosecution and punishment in countries where they are not accredited. Since the U.S. diplomat was accredited in Lebanon — and not Turkey — he is liable to face prosecution per the country’s laws.
The State Department did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
Turkey is an important NATO ally and is considered an important U.S. security partner. The strain between the two countries was previously exacerbated, however, when a court ruled in 2019 that a U.S. Consulate employee would remain in a Turkish jail during his trial on espionage charges.