Berlin summons Turkish envoy over detention of rights activist
Germany demands ‘immediate release’ of Peter Steudtner as well as consular access
Berlin, Germany - Berlin on Wednesday summoned Turkey’s Ambassador over the detention of a German human rights activist and issued a fresh warning about the NATO partner’s respect for the rule of law.
“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,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.
He said the envoy was told ‘in no uncertain terms’ that the detention of Steudtner and five other activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey director was ‘incomprehensible and also unacceptable’.
Berlin demanded Steudtner’s ‘immediate release’ as well as consular access. The Turkish government representative said he would deliver this message immediately to Ankara.
A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered six human rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey director to remain in custody for allegedly aiding a ‘terror’ group, a charge Schaefer branded ‘absurd’.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised the detention of the ac- tivists as ‘unjustified’ and pledged to ‘advocate for [Steudtner] on all levels’.
Schaefer said Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel would interrupt his summer holidays and return to Berlin over the ‘dramatic escalation in Turkish actions’ to determine which ‘further measures’ could be taken.
Relations between Turkey and Germany, home to 3mn ethnic Turks, have been badly strained, since the failed coup attempt a year ago against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Berlin has voiced deep concerns over mass arrests and sackings of alleged coup plotters, and a host of other civil rights controversies.
One dispute centres on Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist with the Berlin-based newspaper Die Welt, who was imprisoned by Turkey on terror charges earlier this year.
Schaefer also mentioned the ongoing detention of German reporter Mesale Tolu, who has been in Turkish custody since April.
The NATO allies have also clashed over thwarted visits by German lawmakers to German troops stationed at Turkish bases.
Last week Turkey asked legislators to postpone a scheduled visit to a NATO base in Konya, the German Foreign Ministry said, expressing ‘regret’ about the decision.
The dispute came after Germany last month pulled out 260 troops from Turkey’s Incirlik base, from where a multinational coalition is fighting the Islamic State extremist group, and redeployed them and their Tornado surveillance jets to Jordan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a meeting focusing on women in culture and media, in Berlin on Monday