Turkish president has alleged that arrested reporter Deniz Yucel is a PKK representative and a German spy, claiming that Germany must be tried for aiding and abetting terrorism.
In a significant escalation of tensions between the two allies, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan snubbed on Friday German authorities for “abetting hundreds and thousands of terrorists.”
The president said Mr. Yucel, who was arrested earlier this week after investigating hacked emails of the Turkish energy minister, is not Die Welt‘s correspondent, but a representative of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, according to state-run news agency Anadolu. Mr. Erdogan claimed that Mr. Yucel took shelter in the German consulate for a month as a German spy and said Berlin refused to hand him over when Turkish authorities demanded.
Mr. Erdogan said he replayed German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s usual line and told her that Turkey relies on its “independent and impartial judiciary” and requested Mr. Yucel from the consulate.
“At first [Germany] refused to hand [Mr. Yucel] over, but then something happened and they gave him to us. The judiciary did its job and arrested him,” Mr. Erdogan said.
Mr. Erdogan was responding to a wave of outrage both in Germany and around the world over the arrest of Mr. Yucel, adding him to an already crowded journalist population in Turkish prisons. German authorities and press advocacy groups protested the decision to arrest the reporter and called on Turkish authorities to release him.
Mrs. Merkel, however, did not call on Turkey to release Mr. Yucel after his detention last month and only urged Turkish authorities to give him a fair trial.
“The German government expects the Turkish judiciary to take into account the high value of press freedom for each democratic society when dealing with Yucel’s case,” the German chancellor said in a statement.
There was no immediate reaction from Berlin if Mr. Erdogan’s narrative is accurate that Germany handed him over while he took shelter at the German consulate.
Mr. Erdogan’s remarks illustrated the escalating tensions between the two countries that were even visible during Mrs. Merkel’s visit to Turkey earlier last month.
Apart from the row over the jailed journalist, the relations also stumbled into a boiling point over Turkish leaders’ desire to hold rallies in Germany ahead of the presidential referendum.
This week, German authorities canceled two campaign speeches by Turkish economy and justice ministers and refused to allow Mr. Erdogan to speak through a video call. Mr. Erdogan said Cemil Bayik, a PKK commander, is free to broadcast in Germany, but they banned the president’s speech.
“They should be tried for aiding and abetting terrorism. The picture is very clear,” Mr. Erdogan fumed in indignation.
But German authorities pointed to the federal structure of decision-making in Germany as they said the cancellation decision were taken by local officials.
Mrs. Merkel’s spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, told media that the federal government was not involved in canceling events in Gaggenau or in Cologne. Though Germany wants to lead as an example on issues of speech and opinion, she said, the government also respects decisions taken at the local level.
That line of argument did little to dispel Turkey’s exploding fury as Turkish officials tried to dig hard to unearth any “example of double standard” that belies European Union’s most liberal country’s own democratic standards.
Not only President Erdogan, but also Turkey’s foreign minister went ballistic over the German decision.
“This is a systematic move by the German deep state. It denounces democracy, the right to assembly and freedom of expression,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said over the cancellation of Turkish ministers’ rallies in Germany. The minister portrayed the ban as a reflection of Germany and the Western nations’ double standards on democracy.
He did not miss the occasion to recall Germany’s allowance of a large event by sympathizers of the PKK in 2016, while denying Mr. Erdogan to hold a rally in Germany to pay tribute to victims of failed coup attempt last summer.
“You allow leaders of terrorist organizations but you do not allow Turkey’s democratically elected president,” the minister said pugnaciously.
“This is inexplicable.”
Despite the rally ban, Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci vowed to push forward with his schedule of attending a series of events in Germany at the weekend.
“It is our duty to go to battle; victory belongs to Allah,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Mr. Zeybekci as saying.
Germany, home for a large Kurdish community, frequently comes at odds with Turkey over the Kurdish conflict and its ramifications for Europe.
To the dismay of Ankara, the German government expresses its concern with candor over worsening humanitarian conditions in Kurdish-majority southeast in Turkey. The arrest of Kurdish politicians has also injected a new layer of tension to strained relations while Turkey is bitter over Berlin’s liberal and welcoming approach to Kurdish dissent and critics.
Ankara accuses Berlin of taking soft standing against what it says Kurdish insurgents’ freewheeling in Germany. German authorities say they avowedly fight PKK operatives by cracking down on its networks, financial resources and recruitment efforts across German cities.
The latest spat only added fuel to the bad blood between Turkey and Germany as it came only a week after German authorities raided houses of 4 imams suspected of spying for Turkey. Ankara denounced the raids and rejected allegations that Turkish imams are spying in Germany for Turkey.
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