Angela Merkel Blasts Turkey for Detention of Human Rights Activists

Geneva Matthews
July 21, 2017

"We have to be clearer than before so that those in charge in Ankara understand that such a policy won't be without consequences".

Earlier, Gabriel cast doubt on Turkey's aspirations to join the EU.

Turkey on July 20 told Germany that bilateral ties could not be founded on "blackmail and threats" after the German foreign minister vowed steps that would limit investment in an escalating dispute. In June, Germany chose to withdraw its troops from Turkey's Incirlik air base and move them to Jordan in protest at the repeated delays that members of the German Bundestag had encountered in trying to visit the facility.

A day after his ministry summoned Turkey's ambassador, Gabriel interrupted his holiday and returned to Berlin to deliver his unusually strong comments towards President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Nine are now in jail, including human rights activist Peter Steudtner and journalists Deniz Yucel and Mesale Tolu.

Relations between Germany and Turkey are increasingly strained.

Martin Schulz, Merkel's challenger in September elections, said Berlin could toughen its security warnings for people who are either in or want to go to Turkey. It said Turkey was Germany's No. 15 export destination and No. 16 source of imports a year ago.

Steudtner's friends, family members, and colleagues urged Turkey to release him immediately, saying in a statement that he and his Swedish colleague, Ali Gharavi, had been on an assignment for a development organisation.

German politicians and media have accused Erdogan of detaining German citizens as "hostages" to trade for Turks in Germany, but Gabriel said he "had heard of no official exchange offer".

He also said he could not envisage talks on expanding the customs union with Turkey and he issued new travel advice which warned of risks in Turkey for Germans.

The latest flare-up was triggered by the arrest of Peter Steudtner, a German human rights activist who was charged by Turkish authorities with supporting a terrorist organization.

"It is appalling to accuse Amnesty and other rights organisations of terrorism", the German foreign ministry said in a statement.

Demanding his immediate release, Gabriel said Steudtner had been invited to speak at a local human rights workshop and had no contacts among the Turkish opposition or civil society.

The row intensified after Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit military personnel at Incirlik Air Base and another base in Konya, located some 50 kilometers south of Turkish capital Ankara.

"I can't see how we as the German government can continue to guarantee corporate investments in Turkey if there is the threat of arbitrary expropriation for political reasons".

The list included chemicals giant BASF, which confirmed it was on a list that had been passed to it by German police, but declined to comment on the allegations.

Council of Europe's Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said Thursday he told Turkey's Binali Yildirim that "human rights defenders should be able to fulfil their activities freely without being subject to arbitrary interferences by the authorities". By contrast, Turkish exports to Germany of some $14 billion made it the No. 1 destination for foreign sales, ahead of the U.K., Italy then Iraq. Only China, at $25.4 billion, exported more to Turkey.

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