Detained reporter is German spy: Turkish president

AP, ANKARA

Sun, Mar 05, 2017 - Page 4

Tensions flared between Ankara and Berlin on Friday over the cancelation of two Turkish Cabinet members’ rallies in Germany and the ongoing detention in Turkey of a German journalist.

Delivering a speech in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged that the Die Welt reporter was both a German spy and a “representative” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Erdogan lashed out at Germany and accused Berlin of harboring him for a month at the German Consulate in Istanbul before agreeing to hand him over to authorities.

“They need to be put on trial for aiding and abetting terrorism,” Erdogan said.

German officials have expressed concern about the journalist. Deniz Yucel, who has both Turkish and German citizenship, was taken into custody last month following his reports about a hacker attack on the e-mail account of the Turkish energy minister.

The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed Erdogan’s claim that Yucel is a spy as “absurd.”

An upcoming referendum to increase the Turkish president’s powers has been another flash point.

Earlier Friday, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke out against Germany over the canceled rallies, saying forces within the German state were working to prevent Turkish leaders from campaigning there for a “Yes” vote.

German Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Martin Schaefer said that the federal government had nothing to do with the cancelations, and suggested Turkish officials voicing their irritation in the press was in “nobody’s interest” and simply “pouring oil onto the fire.”

The German and Turkish foreign ministers appeared to tone down the rhetoric later in the day after a telephone conversation, during which Cavusoglu relayed Turkey’s “unease” over the cancelation of the Turkish justice and economy ministers’ campaign programs, the Turkish foreign ministry said.

It said the two ministers agreed to meet on March 8 in Germany.

Gabriel’s office called it a “constructive and engaged” conversation.

However, Erdogan re-escalated tensions hours later, saying Turkey would continue to criticize Germany.

“They are telling us: ‘Why are you whipping up the issue?’” Erdogan said. “Just you wait, we have only just started. We are going to expose all that you have done in several international meetings.”

Relations were already strained between the two countries over Germany’s criticism of Erdogan’s crackdown following a failed coup as a flow of Turkish diplomats and soldiers sought asylum in Germany.

Germany has suggested it might not extradite suspects wanted by Turkey in cases it considers politically motivated, which has prompted Erdogan to accuse Germany of having “become a shelter” for terrorists and for having no regard for other countries’ national security issues.