German Foreign Ministry summons Turkish envoy over arrest of activist
Germany has warned Turkey that it should understand Berlin’s outrage over the arrest of some senior human rights activists, including a German national, as Turkey decides to remand them in custody on charges of terrorism and links to a failed coup.
The German Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish ambassador to Berlin on Wednesday to protest the continued detention of German national Peter Steudtner and other activists who had been arrested earlier this month in an island near Istanbul while attending a workshop on cyber security and information management.
Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Turkey had to set aside diplomatic formalities and clarify the case, which has hugely angered Berlin.
“The Turkish government needs to immediately and directly hear the German government’s outrage and incomprehension as well as its crystal-clear expectations in the case of Peter Steudtner, and this time without diplomatic niceties,” Schaefer said.
The official said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had abruptly returned to Berlin from summer vacation on Tuesday to consult the issue with the government. Some other reports said the Turkish ambassador had been summoned the same day Gabriel returned to Berlin.
A Turkish judge ruled on Monday that Steudtner and five other activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser, remain in custody on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization. The six were among a group of 10 people, two of them foreign nationals, who were arrested on July 5 on Istanbul’s Buyukada Island.
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rushed to condemn the detentions, saying they were absolutely unjustified and a sign that innocent people were being “caught up in the wheels of the justice system.”
“We declare our solidarity with him and all the others arrested … the German government will do all it can, on all levels, to secure his release,” Merkel said in an unscheduled address to athletes in Berlin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had branded the activity of the group as a continuation of efforts by those seeking a coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. The failed coup, which left over 250 people dead, sparked an unprecedented crackdown as Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 people on charges of links to Fethullah Gueln, a US-based cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup. Over 150,000 people have also been suspended or dismissed from their jobs on similar charges. Gulen denies the allegations.
The massive crackdown has been a main cause of deteriorating diplomatic relations between Germany and Turkey. Berlin has repeatedly criticized the purges as beyond the rule of law while Ankara insists that the German government has done little to condemn the coup and it has even given sanctuary to alleged plotters.
The two countries have clashed over several other issues, including Turkey’s refusal to grant access to German lawmakers to a military base in southern Turkey, where German troops are stationed. Turkish authorities became angry in April after Germany rejected requests by senior Turkish officials to directly address members of the Turkish diaspora living in Germany to promote a referendum on constitutional reforms.