German foreign minister blames Erdogan over family 'threats'


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AFP

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Leading German politician Sigmar Gabriel and wife Anke, who has reportedly been threatened

Germany’s foreign minister has blamed the Turkish president for “threats” made against his wife – a new twist in a bitter row between the two countries.

Sigmar Gabriel said the behaviour of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had emboldened “certain people to try and upset and harass my wife”.

German media quoted Mr Gabriel as saying voicemail threats had targeted his wife Anke, a dentist.

Germany accuses Mr Erdogan of flouting justice by ordering mass arrests.

A particularly thorny issue in their relations is Turkey’s detention of several German citizens under sweeping Turkish state-of-emergency measures.

The German ambassador to Ankara is expected to visit one of them shortly – Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel, at Silivri prison west of Istanbul.

During six months of detention, Yücel has had one previous visit from the ambassador. A German human rights activist, Peter Steudtner, is also in Silivri prison. Both have been accused of terrorism-related offences.

In Turkish law, “terrorism” is a label used to prosecute alleged supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Fethullah Gulen network. The “Gulenists” – followers of a US-based cleric – were behind the abortive July 2016 coup attempt, according to Mr Erdogan.

Turkey accuses Germany of sheltering PKK and pro-Gulen activists, and on Friday Mr Erdogan called Germany’s ruling politicians “enemies of Turkey”.

Mr Erdogan made a stinging personal attack on Mr Gabriel on Saturday. In an address to his AK Party, he said: “Now they have a foreign minister who does not know his limits. Who are you to talk to the President of Turkey?… He is trying to give us a lesson. What is your background in politics? How old are you?”

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AFP

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German human rights groups are pressing for the release of Deniz Yücel

Election nerves

Germany and Turkey are major trade partners and Nato allies, with traditionally close ties. About three million ethnic Turks live in Germany.

Political tensions are heightened by Germany’s 24 September general election.

Mr Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party is firmly entrenched in power. He has urged the estimated 1.2 million Turkish-German voters to reject Germany’s main parties.

In another case vexing the German government, Chancellor Angel Merkel criticised Turkey for ordering the arrest of Dogan Akhanli, a Turkish-German writer, while he was on holiday in Spain.

He was held on Saturday under an Interpol red notice, then released on condition that he remain in Madrid. Previously jailed in Turkey, Akhanli emigrated to Germany in 1991, where he was granted political asylum.

He angered the Turkish authorities by writing about the Ottoman Turks’ atrocities against Armenians during World War One.

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AFP

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Mr Erdogan gives a four-finger salute used by Islamist activists in Egypt

Mrs Merkel said the Erdogan government “must not misuse international organisations such as Interpol”. Spain is awaiting a Turkish extradition request for Akhanli – something that Germany aims to block.

The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, added his voice to the German criticism, condemning “the constant interference by Erdogan in the internal affairs of other states”.

More than 100,000 Turks in Austria are eligible to vote, and Austria will hold a parliamentary election on 15 October.



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