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German Greens co-chief Özdemir raps Merkel and Gabriel on Turkey, Afghanistan

The co-chief of the Greens has accused Germany's government of complying with the Turkish regime's crackdown on liberties. Cem Özdemir also says Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel needs to stop deportations to Afghanistan.

Greens co-leader Cem Özdemir launched an election-year broadside in the Sunday edition of the populist broadsheet "Bild," calling Germany's government compliant with rights abuses in Turkey.

He also criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's planned trip to Ankara in April, just ahead of a referendum in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek to expand his powers - and the amount of time he spends in office.

Özdemir said the trip could "only be evaluated as support for Erdogan's journey toward dictatorship."

He condemned a planned pre-referendum speech by Erdogan in Germany. "Erdogan abuses our democracy to campaign for his dictatorship," Özdemir said. Seventy-seven percent of respondents in a recent survey also want Germany's government to find a way to ban Erdogan's speech. 

Özdemir also said the government had been too reticent in calls for the release of Deniz Yücel, a journalist for the German newspaper "Welt" - also owned by "Bild" publisher Axel Springer - who has been arrested in Istanbul for his reporting.

Afghanistan: 'Not safe'

Özdemir also struck out at Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel's pursuing of deportations of rejected asylum applicants to Afghanistan despite the fact that much of the country remains at war or experiences warlike conditions. Gabriel must "swiftly adapt the appraisal of the situation to the reality," Özdemir told Bild.

Other Greens took to the press Sunday to criticize Gabriel and deportations sought by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. Federal parliamentarian Omid Nouripour told the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that the classification of Afghanistan as a "safe" country for deportations was "politically motivated." Nouripour, who recently traveled to Afghanistan to evaluate the situation with his own eyes, said the ruling parties had fallen into a "panic" in the face of the rising anti-immigrant, nationalist party Alternative for Germany.

Last week, Gabriel said the situation could not be evaluated in Afghanistan as a whole - and that 56 percent of asylum applicants from the nation were approved anyway. "There are safe and very unsafe regions," Gabriel said on Wednesday. According to numbers reported by "Welt" at the end of January, Germany has ordered more than 12,500 Afghans deported, and some politicians, especially from Bavaria's ruling Christian Social Union, have called for removals to be accelerated.

Dietary dispute

In the interview, the Greens lawmaker also gave "Bild" a bit of personal information.

Now 51, Özdemir told the newspaper that he quit eating meat when he was 17 years old - and that his parents were not happy with the decision.

"For my father, meat was something that one had to work hard for," Özdemir said. "He did not accept that his own son no longer wanted to eat it."

mkg/tj (AFP, kna, epd, dpa)

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