A German national who was critical of the Turkish government, currently headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, was arrested in Spain on Saturday following Turkey’s issuance of a warrant via Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, Reuters reports.
German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli had been previously detained in Turkey for opposition activities in the 1980s and 1990s and has lived in the German city of Cologne since 1995.
Although the writer was released from custody within the first 24 hours of his arrest, he was ordered to remain in Spain pending a decision regarding Turkey’s request for his extradition. This entire process could take up to 40 days.
According to Mr. Akhanli, he was in bed early Saturday morning when there was a knock at the door of his hotel room in Granada, Spain. Armed police officers were on the other end, “expecting to find a terrorist,” Mr. Akhanli said.
“It is terrible because I thought that I was safe in Europe. I thought the Turkish arbitrariness and arrogance cannot reach Europe,” he said, as quoted by the New York Times. “They simply abuse international law, whatever it is good for. It has nothing to do with the rule of law.”
The move is part and parcel of the latest spat currently taking place between Erdogan and German leader Angela Merkel. Just days ago, Erdogan urged Turkish voters in Germany – there are roughly 3 million of them – to reject Merkel and her party. Just one day later, Mr. Akhanli was arrested in Spain.
Germany, for its part, has already attempted to intervene. Germany insisted that Berlin be involved in any extradition process and requested that no extradition take place, according to Reuters. Merkel also personally intervened, calling the move unacceptable and essentially telling Erdogan to stop using Interpol to arrest his critics.
The arrest of the German national in Granada was part of a “targeted hunt against critics of the Turkish government living abroad in Europe,” Akhanli’s lawyer, Ilias Uyar, told Der Spiegel, according to Reuters.
According to the New York Times, the grounds for extradition were already murky (most media outlets are unclear about what these grounds actually are). Further, Mr. Arkhanli reportedly gave up his Turkish passport when he became a German citizen in 2001, and one would have to wonder what sort of crimes an author could have committed that would warrant such an intrusive arrest on European soil, pending a possible extradition.
As Reuters notes, any country can issue an Interpol “red notice” – technically not an arrest warrant – and extradition by Spain would only follow if Ankara could convince Spanish courts it had a genuine case against Mr. Akhanli. The New York Times explains that over the years, this “red notice” system has been abused by countries such as Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey to try to censor critics and political opponents who live overseas.
As such, the German Journalists’ Union warned journalists critical of Ankara to have German police check their Interpol records before traveling abroad.
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