German FM to lobby Turkey for release of political prisoners

German FM to lobby Turkey for release of political prisoners

BERLIN (Rahnuma): German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that he will use his first official visit to Turkey as an opportunity to reiterate demands to release German citizens who have been imprisoned there on political grounds.

Speaking ahead of meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and foreign minister Mevluet Cavusoglu in Ankara, Maas highlighted that it was “no secret” that recent developments had “cast a shadow” over traditionally close diplomatic ties between Germany and Turkey.

“Not least, the still high number of imprisonments testifies to this circumstance,” Maas told reporters, adding that there could be no normalization of bilateral relations until the last seven German prisoners in Turkey were freed.

At least 35 German citizens have been jailed in the wake of a failed military coup against Erdogan in 2016, most of whom were charged with supporting illegal Kurdish and/or left-wing organizations.

Deniz Yuecel, a journalist for German WELT newspaper and one of the most prominent Germans to have been temporarily arrested in Turkey, recently complained that local judicial authorities were prosecuting suspects “illegally and without proper proof”.

Yuecel claimed that he had consequently filed a compensation lawsuit against Ankara after his own release in the hope of setting a precedent for other prisoners.

According to a report by German public broadcasters WDR and NDR on Tuesday night, a further German citizen has been remanded in custody in the European Union (EU) member state of Bulgaria as a result of an international arrest warrant issued by Ankara.

The 44-year-old is accused by a Turkish court of being a member of the country’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In spite of the incident, Maas insisted on Wednesday that Germany’s strategic interests mandated for him to “continue to work hard on an improvement of the relationship”.

“Turkey is more than a large neighbor, it is an important partner of Germany,” he added.

The German government has yet to take an official position on the spiraling currency crisis which has gripped Turkey since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a raft of new sanctions against the country.

Berlin merely made informal suggestions for Ankara to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance, a move which Erdogan rejects due to the resulting need to accept the Washington-based fund’s demands for economic re-structuring.

Maas’ trip on Wednesday marks the start of an intensive program of diplomatic exchange between Germany and Turkey which will take place over the next months. Amongst others, Erdogan is scheduled to be received by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for an official visit in three weeks, according to German media reports.

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