Merkel says EU-Turkey ties ‘severely hit’ by developments in Ankara

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference in the Federal Chanclery in Berlin.

The relationship between the European Union (EU) and Turkey has been “severely hit” by actions taken by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Ankara government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. “Developments over the past weeks have severely hit German-Turkish ties, as well as European-Turkish relations,” Merkel told the German parliament.

She noted in particular that Ankara’s arrest and treatment of a German newspaper correspondent is “incompatible with a constitutional state.” Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist for Die Welt, was arrested on charges of making terror propaganda in February. He faces up to 10.5 years in jail if convicted.

Meanwhile, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has warned Turkey on Thursday that it must fully respect legal due process, as Ankara continues to make mass arrests after the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt. “Turkey has the right to protect itself and to prosecute those who were behind the failed coup attempt but that has to take place based on the full respect of the rule of law,” Stoltenberg said as he arrived for an EU defense ministers meeting in Valletta.
“I attach a great importance to these values myself and this is an issue we have discussed with the Turkish leadership,” he added.

Turkey on Wednesday detained more than 1,000 people and suspended over 9,103 police in sweeping new arrests against alleged supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Islamic scholar accused by Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan along with Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of mounting the coup. However, Gülen and the movement have strongly denied any involvement into the putsch.

Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen has been one of the vocal critics of Turkish government. Gülen has been outspoken figure in lambasting Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan on corruption that was exposed in December 2013 as well as Ankara’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria that was uncovered with illegal shipment revelation in January 2014.

Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt persecution against Gülen and his followers and vowed to pursue them abroad no matter where they are. Turkish government shut down all institutions affiliated with the movement and jailed almot 50.000 people in the last nine months alone. He labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.

Erdoğan has also blamed the failed coup bid last year to Gülen but failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric to the attempt. Gülen himself strongly denied any involvement. Many believe Erdoğan staged the failed coup himself to set up his critics for a mass persecution and as a pretext to transform secular parliamentary democracy to political Islamist autocracy.

More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies since July 15, 2016. According to a statement by Turkey’s Interior Minister Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

April 27, 2017

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