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Turkey

Allegations against Germans being held in Turkish police custody are 'ridiculous'

In addition to Deniz Yucel, five other German citizens have been detained in Turkey. One of them is Ozel Sogut, a businessman from the western German city of Siegen. His wife has not spoken to him since December 2016.

On the phone, Ayse Sogut sounds friendly and a bit shy. She does not seem to like all the media attention. "We live in a village and have never been in the spotlight. My children don't like it and I am not happy being on television either, but now I just have to get through it."

Since December, Ayse Sogut has had no contact with her husband. Ozel Sogut sells solar systems in Turkey and on December 7, 2016, he was taken into police custody after having asked the public prosecutor in Antalya why his company had been seized. He has been in pre-trial custody since December 20, says his wife. She has not been able to call him on the phone and one of her husband's friends has tried to keep her informed. She does not even dare to speak to her husband's attorney. "It is all too tricky. Maybe we will have problems getting along and he will stop working for us."

Member of a terrorist organization

According to Ayse Sogut, her husband has been accused of being a member of the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). She suspects that the detainment may be related to the fact that her husband once worked with an investor in Antalya, who was known for being a Gulen follower. Her husband has been accused of doing accounting work for FETO and managing millions for the organization.

He only came home to Germany once a month to visit the family and he either spent his time catching up on sleep or held meetings with German companies. "The allegations against my husband are ridiculous," says Ayse Sogut. "I'm a tax consultant myself. It is simply impossible that he could do such things in secret. He has absolutely nothing to do with this movement; it is completely untrue."

At the end of October last year, she had the feeling she was being watched, says Sogut. She recalls that she was at the hardware store when "this Imam came along, together with the chairman of the mosque in Siegen. He pointed at me; the Imam looked at me and watched me for a long time. In our culture and religion, it is actually not acceptable and certainly not for an Imam. I do not know if this is related to our case; I can only speculate."

After her husband was put in prison, she turned to the German foreign ministry. She had been advised to call the German Embassy in Ankara where she was eventually referred to the consulate in Antalya. At first, no one there could help her. "They said they could not do anything; Turkey is in a state of emergency.

"I never thought a politician would help so much"

Things only started moving when her local MP, Willi Brase, got involved behind the scenes. Brase stood up for her and even wrote a letter together with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, addressed to Angela Merkel. He was a blessing for her family. "Mr. Brase is simply a man who insists on following the rule of law. Until now, I always thought that politics are far removed from the people. I never thought that a politician would help so much. My husband is just a businessman, not a journalist or anything like that," says Sogut.

Ozel Sogut is one of six German citizens who have been detained in Turkey. The public interest Deniz Yücel, the imprisoned correspondent of the German newspaper "Die Welt," has renewed media attention on the other detainees. At the federal press conference on Wednesday, German Foreign Ministry spokesman, Martin Schäfer, said that they were "offering all those being held the same level of intensive consular support and hoping for the quickest possible completion of an investigation that has a positive outcome."

Özel Sögüt (privat)

As a German citizen, Ozel Sogut did not think he would encounter any problems in Turkey.

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations provides that "when a German national is arrested or detained on criminal or immigration charges, the detainee must be advised of the right to have the German consulate notified and the detainee has the right to regular consultation with consular officials," explained Schäfer.

The problem at the moment is the fact that most of the six detainees have dual citizenship. The international principle of effective nationality is then applied. This means, that "from the point of view of the Turks in the case of plural German-Turkish nationality, they can use the position of international law and see the person as a Turk and not a German. That is why they did not notify the German consulate."

Investigations are supposed to prove innocence

A German consular official can now visit Ozel Sogut, who has only German citizenship, this is progress. Ayse Sogut says her husband has been moved to another wing of the prison and has his own bed. "He has a television in the room and can watch everything. He is doing well physically and psychologically." The other inmates in his wing are teachers and professors and he feels safe. He hopes to be released soon so he can continue working.

Ayse Sogut does not want her husband to be released just because he is a German citizen. "I really want it to be clear that he is not a terrorist. I want his cellphone and laptop to be analyzed and for people to see that he has thousands of emails that are not about weapons, but about solar energy." Ozel Sogut has even offered to give his password to the authorities. Up till now, they have only investigated his bank account details. "There, they could not find what he has been accused of," says Ayse Sogut.

Now she hopes that the German government will exert pressure and that the investigations will continue. She wants investigators to prove his innocence "so that it will be worth living here in Siegen again and we will not be seen as terrorists." Many Turks accuse her of casting a bad light on Turkey. However, she says she loves Turkey and insists this is about justice. "I hope that rule of law will be preserved in Turkey," says Ayse Sogut. But right now, she does not know when she will be able speak to her husband again.

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