MEPs fuming over Interpol arrests of Erdoğan critics

Written by Martin Banks on 24 August 2017 in News

MEPs have rounded on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his latest actions.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  | Photo credit: Press Association

MEPs have rounded on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his latest actions, including the alleged abuse of Interpol to silence his critics and for trying to influence the upcoming German federal elections.

Ankara has been widely condemned for abusing the powers of Interpol in order to have Erdoğan critic Dogan Akhanli, a German critic of Turkish origin, arrested in Spain last weekend.

Akhanli, 60, writes about Turkey's human rights record and was detained on an Interpol red notice on Saturday while on holiday in Granada. The notice is similar to an international arrest warrant.


The arrest came just two weeks after the arrest of another regime critic, the Swedish-Turkish journalist Hamza Yalçin, at Barcelona's El Prat airport on 3 August - also on an international arrest warrant requested by Ankara.

Akhanli has since been released by the Spanish authorities but cannot leave Madrid. Yalçin, however, remains in custody on terrorism charges.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has told Erdoğan to stop misusing Interpol to pursue his critics.

Relations between Berlin and Ankara have deteriorated after a series of rows, including over the recent arrests of several Turkish-German journalists in Erdoğan's reprisals against opponents after the failed coup last year.  

Commenting on the arrests, Parliament's GUE/NGL group leader Gabi Zimmer said her group "strongly criticises the latest actions by President Erdoğan in order to silence his critics. His abuse of Interpol in order to have independent, critical Turkish voices arrested overseas in an EU member state is utterly deplorable."

The MEP added, "We also strongly condemn the continuous, arbitrary arrests and detention of 50,000 people inside Turkey since July 2016 including critical voices, journalists, judges, opposition politicians and other ordinary citizens. 

"Such blatant violations of human rights move Turkey further and further away from the European Union."

The German deputy added, "I strongly reject Erdoğan's recent attempt in trying to influence the German federal elections by urging German citizens of Turkish origins to not vote for certain political parties such as the CDU, the SPD and the Greens and by describing them as 'enemies of Turkey'.

"Such political interference is unacceptable and I reject his comments wholeheartedly. I therefore call on our EU institutions to find and adopt a common stance and strong voice against Erdoğan's latest actions," concluded Zimmer.

Further condemnation of Erdoğan came from Swedish MEP Malin Björk, who expressed particular concern over the detention of Hamza Yalçin.

"The arrest of Yalçin is clearly a politically motivated measure taken by the anti-democratic Turkish leader. The only crime Yalçin is guilty of is practicing his democratic right in criticising the Turkish regime. 

"Interpol should not be taking orders from Turkey as it is clear that the rule of law is not respected there. I urge the Swedish and Spanish authorities to act swiftly to ensure Yalçin's immediate release," said Björk.

Meanwhile, Spanish MEP Marina Albiol has laid into the Spanish government's action over the recent arrests. 

The deputy said, "If the EU lets the Spanish state extradite Yalçin and Akhanli to Turkey then it will once again be the accomplice to Erdoğan's witch hunt, repression and authoritarianism.

"Germany had intervened in the release of Akhanli and Sweden is giving support to Yalçin. They're both EU citizens so Mariano Rajoy's government must explain why it has been acting like Erdoğan's servant", she said.


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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