Freedom for Peter Steudtner is naturally a cause for celebration. But by no means is it a signal of a hoped-for change of course in Turkey, according to Reinhard Müller of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Turkey's early release of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner was not exactly in line with the rule of law. But, apparently, came about instead mainly due to the mediation of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
It seems that when one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's friends gets involved and can convince him it would be opportune to open a single jail cell door, then that's what gets done. Some tears of joy are justified — after all, a person has been set free instead of being used as a hostage by a potentate who continues to imprison others. Satisfaction concerning the progress of the rule of law in Turkey, however, is unjustified, as such progress does not appear to have been made.
Yet, Ankara is making an effort not to completely abandon the path of law and justice. It requested an extension from the European Court of Human Rights to decide how to handle German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held in a Turkish jail for months. The move shows Turkey has not completely turned its back on the Council of Europe.
But what will happen to Yücel and the other prisoners? And what was the price for Steudtner's release? Mediation, making a deal with Erdogan, implies some form of reciprocation is in the cards. And even if it was just some encouragement and Turkey coming to regard Steudtner's freedom as a signal of its humanitarian generosity, in Europe it is the role of independent courts applying the law to decide on a person's freedom.
Regardless of the potential for Turkey's membership in the European Union, a notion that has become increasingly fantastical, Ankara is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and the responsibilities that underpin it.
Continuing to insist the country holds to those rules is not getting mixed up in Tukey's domestic affairs — it's a fact that concerns everyone.