Turkish government has issued entry bans for 162 German citizens since 2017

The Turkish government issued entry bans for a total of 162 German citizens from January 2017 to August 23, 2018, according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) on Wednesday.

According to the report, Germany’s Foreign Ministry responded to a written inquiry submitted by the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) regarding the entry ban the Turkish government issued for German citizens. The ministry announced that Turkey issued entry bans for a total of 162 German citizens from January 2017 to August 23, 2018.

The German Foreign Ministry did not offer any explanation why the entry bans were issued. AfD MP Anton Friesen, who submitted the inquiry, said that “Turkey’s ban against our citizens is unacceptable.”

Friesen demanded that the Merkel government pressure the Ankara administration so German citizens can freely enter and exit Turkey. According to data from the German Foreign Ministry, there are currently 50 German citizens in Turkish prisons. Seven of these are political prisoners, while the rest are imprisoned for other violations.

Moreover, German citizen Mehmet Y. was detained in the Bulgarian city of Varna late on Tuesday at the behest of the Turkish government. The German Foreign Ministry confirmed the arrest and said the embassy in Sofia was providing the man with consular services.

German media, citing the record of his arrest, reported that Mehmet Y. had been convicted several years earlier by a Turkish court in Adana for membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey, the EU and the United States consider a terrorist group.

Mehmet Y. managed to flee Turkey for Germany prior to being jailed. He was granted asylum in 2001 before becoming a naturalized German citizen in 2009. Prior to his arrest in Bulgaria, he had been living in the city of Bonn where he reportedly counseled refugees. However, Mehmet Y. still holds a Turkish passport, meaning he could be extradited to Turkey, according to his lawyer.

According to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW), Mehmet Y.’s case closely reflects that of German-Turkish writer Dogan Akhanlı, who was detained in while on vacation in Spain last year after Turkey issued a warrant for his arrest through Interpol. The Cologne-based author was held for two months by Spanish authorities before the Justice Ministry in Madrid ultimately dropped the extradition proceedings.

DW reported that some 35 German nationals are believed to have been detained in Turkey as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sweeping crackdown on dissent and press freedom. High-profile figures such as journalists Deniz Yücel and Meşale Tolu have been released but still face charges of supporting terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s two-day visit to Turkey. “Germany wants to improve relations with Turkey and enhance cooperation on issues of common interest,” Maas said ahead of his talks in Ankara.

“Germany has a strategic interest in reshaping our relations with Turkey in a constructive way. Turkey is not only a big neighbor of [ours] but also an important partner of Germany,” he said in a statement.

Maas is scheduled to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and other senior officials on Wednesday in Ankara.

Over the past two years, political relations between Ankara and Berlin have suffered setbacks, but in recent months both sides have taken steps towards improving ties.

Germany’s top diplomat said that during his talks in Ankara he would also raise the issue of several German citizens who were arrested in Turkey as part of counterterrorism investigations. On Wednesday, Maas is also expected to be received by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım. Maas’s two-day trip to Turkey comes ahead of Erdogan’s state visit to Berlin on Sept. 28-29.

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