German Left Party MP briefly detained in Turkey due to social media posts

Gökay Akbulut, a member of the German Parliament from the Left Party

Gökay Akbulut, a member of the German parliament from the Left Party, was detained upon her arrival at an airport in southern Turkey due to her social media posts but was released after the German government intervened, Turkish Minute reported.

The detention took place on Aug. 3 in Antalya based on a detention warrant issued by the Kayseri Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Akbulut, 40, was reportedly released after several hours in custody.

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed to the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that it knew about the incident.

According to FAZ, the German Embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Antalya were “in very close contact” with Akbulut. The German government intervened “at a high level, forcefully and through various channels and obtained the lawmaker’s immediate release.”

The Turkish Justice Ministry was also involved, the newspaper said.

Akbulut said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday that her detention took place on allegations of disseminating terrorist propaganda based on her social media posts in 2019, adding that she has also received death threats from Kayseri, a central Turkish province where nationalist sentiment runs high.

It was not clear which of Akbulut’s social media posts had triggered the investigation into her.

The politician has been campaigning in Germany for the lifting on the ban on the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) , listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community. She has also accused the Turkish government of “waging a brutal war on the Kurdish population inside and outside its borders.”

She said she kept her visit to her relatives short and left Turkey, although she still has plans to visit Turkey in October as part of a trip by the German-Turkish Parliamentary Group, of which she is a member, and will not hesitate to express her views.

In another tweet on Saturday in which she for the first time talked about her detention in Turkey, Akbulut said the investigation file against her was closed by the Turkish Justice Ministry within several hours of the intervention of the German Foreign Ministry on the day of her detention.

She said the incident showed that there is no separation of powers in Turkey.

Critics accuse Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of doing away with the separation of powers and establishing one-man rule under the presidential system of governance adopted through a public referendum in 2017.

They say judicial authorities in the country act on orders from Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and that the law is being used as a weapon to silence government critics.

In an interview with Südwestrundfunk, a regional public broadcasting corporation serving southwestern Germany, Akbulut said she had been lucky in a difficult situation because she enjoys the benefits of German citizenship and immunity extended to MPs but that this is not the case for thousands of critics facing similar politically motivated charges in Turkey.

The German lawmaker described her detention as an “attempt at intimidation” to silence her as someone who has been politically committed to the democratization of Turkey for years. She said she will not give in to the attempts.

Following a failed coup in July 2016, there have been many instances of the detention or arrest of Turkish expatriates upon their arrival in Turkey due to their social media posts critical of Erdoğan or his government.

Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel was kept in pre-trial detention in Turkey from February 2017 to February 2018 on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, causing tension in German-Turkish relations. At the time the German Foreign Ministry said the release of the journalist followed months of diplomacy that included two meetings with Erdoğan.

Erdoğan had dubbed Yücel a “member of the PKK” as well as a “German agent.” The Turkish leader later called him a “terrorist.”

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