German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks behind a camera light during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Gabriel said his country will revise its travel advice for Turkey following the jailing of a German human rights activist who has no ties to the country. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP) (Associated Press)
ISTANBUL — The Latest on relations between Turkey and Germany (all times local):
The head of Europe’s top human rights body says he has discussed a variety of human rights issues with Turkey’s prime minister and expressed concerns over the pre-trial imprisonment of six activists in Turkey.
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.”
Jagland said accusations against the activists should be backed by “serious and concrete” evidence.
He said the lack of concrete evidence can produce “an atmosphere of arbitrariness leader to fear, self-censorship and a chilling effect within Turkish civil society.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman has branded as “unfortunate” comments by the German foreign minister, including those telling Germans to exercise caution in Turkey.
Ibrahim Kalin told reporters Thursday that the German comments were “internal political investments” geared toward increasing votes at upcoming elections in the country, and urged German politicians to act in a more “rational manner.”
“Those who see that animosity … against our president helps them score points have jumped on the bandwagon,” Kalin said.
Kalin also condemned German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s suggestions that German companies’ investments in Turkey may not continue to be guaranteed.
“We strongly condemn statements that German citizens who travel to Turkey are not safe and that German companies in Turkey have hesitations and concerns,” he said. “There is no such thing.”
Kalin also urged Germany to respect Turkish judicial decisions, saying a group of human rights defenders — including a German citizen — who were detained in Turkey were not ordinary visitors but “as far as the judiciary could establish (they are) people who engaged in illegal or suspicious activities.”
A group representing German exporters says that many companies have already put investments in Turkey on ice and it can’t recommend that any firm invest there at present.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel complained Thursday that dozens of German companies are being accused without evidence of helping terrorists. He cast doubt on the future of government export guarantees for German companies’ investments in Turkey. Such guarantees are offered to insure exports to many countries.
In its statement, Germany’s BGA exporters association added that “we must expect significant declines in exports if the measures under consideration are implemented” but that would not pose a major problem for German foreign trade as a whole. It said Turkey was Germany’s No. 15 export destination and No. 16 source of imports last year.
Germany’s foreign minister says his country will revise its travel advice for Turkey following the jailing of a German human rights activist who has no ties to the country.
Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday that the jailing of Peter Steudtner suggests that something similar could happen to any citizen. Gabriel also said he doesn’t see how the government can continue guaranteeing companies’ investments in Turkey in the absence of “legal security” and will have to consider what it does about export guarantees.
He added that Germany also wants to discuss pre-accession funding to Turkey from the European Union.
Turkey says Germany’s demand for the release of a German human rights trainer is “unacceptable” and an attempt to interfere with the Turkish judiciary.
In a statement published Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said they have kept Germany’s charge d’affaires in Ankara informed of Peter Steudtner’s case, adding “the independent Turkish judiciary must be trusted.”
The ministry said statements by the spokesmen for the German chancellor and foreign ministry constituted “diplomatic rudeness” and said the judiciary cannot be instructed or counseled by anyone.
A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the pre-trial arrest of four leading human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s country director, Steudtner and a Swedish trainer, for alleged links to terror groups.
The foreign ministry accused Germany of a “double standard,” saying it harbors members of terror groups and prevents their trial.
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