Dozens of Turkish soldiers have sought asylum in Germany for fear of Ankara's purges, according to German media. The soldiers previously served in NATO bases. The report comes ahead of Angela Merkel's trip to Ankara.
The Turkish troopers were forced to give up their posts after the failed coup in July, news magazine "Der Spiegel" and public broadcaster ARD reported on Saturday. The suspension and the massive purges within Turkish military reportedly prompted around 40 soldiers, most of them officers, to apply for asylum in Germany. Last month, a US general said that 150 NATO officers lost their job. Most of them were recalled to Turkey, but some chose not to return.
According to the media, German authorities have failed to provide an official response to asylum seekers for several months.
"If I go back to Turkey, I risk being arrested or even tortured," one of the officers told "Der Spiegel."
While Ankara has presented the purge as a push against the rouge elements behind the coup, the soldiers interviewed by the magazine claim that the government has other motives.
"Believe me, I have no sympathy for those involved in the coup," one of them told the reporters. "Those people need to be punished, they have destroyed our lives as well."
'Purely judicial matter'
Another officer says that the strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to eliminate pro-western soldiers from the armed forces.
"The solders targeted by the purges have something in common - we are successful, pro-western, and support secularism."
Commenting on the asylum applications, senior German lawmaker Norbert Röttgen said the issue would be treated independently from political pressures.
"The asylum process in a purely judicial matter, political expectations cannot and will not play a role," said Röttgen, who is the head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.
The report comes at an awkward time for Berlin, as Angela Merkel is preparing for a diplomatic visit to Turkey and a meeting with Erdogan next week. The ties between the two countries have been deteriorating for years.
Turkey is also the key player in the deal to hold back refugee influx from reaching Europe. Just yesterday, Turkey threatened punitive measures against Greece for Athens' refusal to extradite a separate group of Turkish soldiers. Other NATO states are expected to soon face similar dilemmas with their own groups of coup suspects.
dj/rc (Reuters, AFP)