Bulgarian judges consider extraditing German to Turkey | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.09.2018
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Bulgarian judges consider extraditing German to Turkey

Mehmet Y., who has dual German-Turkish citizenship, has been under house arrest in a Bulgarian hotel since September 5. Officials in Ankara want him extradited. If that request is granted, he's likely to end up in jail.

It was supposed to be a nice vacation by the Black Sea. But, on September 2, Mehmet Y. was taken into custody upon his arrival with his wife in Varna, a seaside resort in Bulgaria. He was detained at the airport until September 4 and then taken to a jail in downtown Varna. The next day, he was released and put under house arrest at the hotel where he and his wife were going to spend their holiday. He hasn't left it since.

Mehmet, 44, was wanted by Turkish authorities. In 1999, according to media reports, a court in the city of Adana had sentenced him to 12 and a half years in jail in absentia for supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned and considered a terror group by Turkey's government. Because Mehmet was not in the country, officials in Ankara put an Interpol warrant out for his arrest.

Umbrellas by the beach at Bulgaria's Black Sea coast (DW/A. Andreev)

Mehmet does not get to enjoy the beach on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast as planned

"Had we known this, my husband would have never left Germany," Gülsen, Mehmet's wife, told DW. "But we have traveled numerous times over the last few years, to various EU and non-EU countries."

On Tuesday, a court in Varna decided that Mehmet would remain under house arrest at the hotel until judges decide whether to extradite him. They have requested that Turkish officials send documents laying out their case. When exactly the decision will be made is not clear.

If the court does not receive the documents, Mehmet will have to be released, said his Bulgarian lawyer, who asked that DW not use his name because he intends to travel to Turkey and fears repercussions.

Read more: Turkey arrests another German citizen

'Well-integrated in Bonn'

As a student in Turkey in the 1990s, Mehmet was an advocate of the Kurdish language and culture. He was arrested and accused of supporting the PKK. He fled to Germany, where he was granted political asylum. In 2009 he became a citizen.

Mehmet told Bonn's daily General-Anzeiger that he wanted to turn in his Turkish passport when he received the German one, but that Turkey wouldn't let him. 

"I want to go home," he told the newspaper. "I want to continue living my old life. I'm well-integrated in Bonn. I haven't done anything wrong."

Mehmet for the Catholic relief organization Caritas in Bonn, attending to unaccompanied minors who arrive in Germany as refugees. Gülsen was a fellow with the renowned Friedrich Ebert Foundation and founded hevi, an association for the education and integration of migrants.

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German officials are aware of Mehmet's case. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, of the Social Democrats, visited Turkey in early September. One of the topics he discussed with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the fate of the seven Germans who are currently in prison in Turkey. Their cases are apart from Mehmet's.

"We want to make an effort to get open questions answered," Maas told the news agency AFP.

A representative from the Foreign Ministry told DW that Mehmet has been receiving diplomatic support ever since he was arrested. However, the representative also said Germany's government would respect the independence of Bulgaria's judiciary. In general, the Foreign Ministry does not comment on ongoing trials.

Gülsen said the support and visits from German Embassy personnel in Varna had meant a lot to her and her husband.

Read more: Opinion: German-Turkish relations no easy feat

Imprisoned in hotel

On Tuesday, Gülsen returned to Germany. She wants to make sure that the media report on her husband's case and that the public takes note. Even though saying goodbye was hard for the couple, Gülsen said it was important to her husband that she speak with politicians and reporters.

"This is what he told me before I left: 'Please make sure they don't forget about me,'" she said.

Until the final decision on his extradition comes, Mehmet is stuck at his hotel: The court won't accept any other address. Staff are very friendly to her husband, Gülsen said, and the management has been accommodating, as well. The hotel extended the reservation for the couple's room until October 17. But, then, the hotel will close for the season. Mehmet hopes to be back home in Germany before that.

That happy ending is far from certain.

"We are very scared about the possible extradition," Gülsen said.

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