Turkey detaining 12 Germans on political grounds after new arrests


Two German citizens have been arrested in Turkey for what the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said were possible "political accusations," bringing the total number of Germans detained in the country on such grounds to 12.

The fresh arrests come amid ongoing efforts by Germany to secure the release of its citizens, including two journalists and a human rights worker, putting strains on the already tense relationship between the two countries. 

The German Foreign Ministry did not provide details on the identities or professions of those arrested, nor did it reveal the exact charges against them.

"We are still trying to establish this but we have not had any personal contact with the two," a ministry spokeswoman said. Accusations involving political activities could also include allegations of terrorism, the spokeswoman said.

The arrests come amid a deterioration in relations between Berlin and Ankara following a crackdown in Turkey after an abortive coup attempt last year by a faction in the military. 

Of the 55 German citizens in jail in Turkey, 12 – including the two arrested this week – are being held on political grounds, according to Berlin officials. 

"We expect Turkey to release German citizens who have been detained in Turkey for reasons that are not understandable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. International conventions on the arrests needed to be followed, including the granting of consular access, Seibert added.

There is growing concern in Germany that Turkey is holding Germans as hostages to be exchanged.

The Turkish government insists the judiciary is independent. There is a state of emergency in Turkey, which grants the government wide-ranging powers. Some 50,000 people are in jail in relation to the bloody coup attempt. 

Recent decrees under the emergency law allow terrorism suspects to be held for up to seven years in pre-trial detention while also legalising the exchanging of foreigners jailed in Turkey for certain Turkish government officials, including spies, being held in jails abroad.

The two latest arrests took place on Thursday and the German consul general in the western Turkish city of Izmir was informed by non-governmental bodies about them, the ministry spokeswoman said in Berlin. 

Airport police in Antalya confirmed the arrests to the German consulate, she added. 

Tensions between the countries have been mounting for years over criticism in Berlin of Ankara's human rights record. In 2016, the German parliament recognised the World War 1 killing of Armenians by the Ottoman army as a genocide, angering Turkey. 

This year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused some European leaders of behaving like Nazis, after his ministers were blocked from holding campaign rallies for a controversial constitutional referendum in cities in Germany and the Netherlands.

Turkey's ties with the U.S. are also strained, in part over Washington's decision to work with the Kurds in Syria to defeat Islamic State. Moreover, a U.S. pastor is being held in jail in Turkey, with the U.S. State Department demanding his immediate release. 

At the same time, a U.S. prosecutor has filed indictments against Erdogan's bodyguards over a brawl with Kurdish protesters in Washington in May – a move that the Turkish leader called "scandalous."    (dpa)

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