German relations with Turkey have been at levels which could only be described as dismal or worse for a while now. Don’t expect that to improve very much in the coming weeks now that the number of German citizens “detained” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to one dozen this week. Two more Germans were taken prisoner and charged with the usual bogus claims of supporting a terrorist organization and trying to overthrow the government.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly pondering issuing a travel advisory for German citizens thinking of visiting Turkey. The only question we should probably have is… what took you so long?
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said Germany should react decisively to Ankara’s detention of two further German citizens, amid growing calls for Berlin to issue a formal travel warning for Germans heading to Turkey.
Twelve German citizens are now in Turkish detention on political charges, four of them holding dual citizenship. Among these is German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who will have been in detention 200 days on Friday.
Under the circumstances, Merkel said she did not think it was appropriate to carry out further discussions with Ankara about its participation in a European Union customs union.
The head of the German Greens party described Erdogan as a “hostage-taker” rather than a president and even Merkel’s own party leaders are calling for more forceful action. It’s bad enough that Erdogan is locking up his own people by the tens of thousands, but he’s also seizing citizens of nations which are supposedly his allies.
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth once again asking where American Pastor Andrew Brunson is and what’s being done about it. Back in May we learned that President Trump had brought up the subject of Brunson three separate times during his meeting with Erdogan. The Vice President has reportedly spoken to Turkish officials on his behalf as well. But did it produce any results? Apparently not, since just last week Brunson had even more charges leveled against him rather than being closer to release. (Slate)
Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who has been imprisoned in Turkey for nearly a year on dubious terrorism charges, is now facing new charges: “gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and to change the constitutional order.”
There’s little to no evidence that the Christian minister is a member of an Islamic social movement, much less proof that he plotted to overthrow the Turkish government. As I wrote in May, there’s been speculation that the Turkish government is using Brunson’s case to put pressure on the U.S. government, which it wants to extradite Gulen himself. The imam has asylum in the U.S. and lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. There also has been speculation that Turkey might release Brunson to the U.S. in exchange for Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman the feds arrested in Miami in 2016 for evading sanctions against Iran.
I think we all understand that the situation with Turkey is complicated, particularly when it comes to the battle against ISIS and Turkey’s critical geopolitical position. Since we clearly can’t expect the Tyrant of Turkey to simply do the right thing, perhaps the wheels will have to be greased a bit. Whatever the requirements may be, we need to get a deal done. I don’t relish the idea of turning over Fethullah Gulen to Erdogan since we’ll probably just be sending him to a prolonged and awful death. Nor do I like the sound of surrendering a known terrorist supporter like Reza Zarrab before he’s served his sentence. But at this point we’ve got to settle on our priorities and getting Pastor Brunson out of Turkey and back with his family seems to be the more pressing need. It’s been nearly a year and our collective patience should be running out by now.