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German jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges

Rebecca Staudenmaier with DPA
October 26, 2018

His family claimed Patrick K. was on a hiking holiday, but Turkey said he was fighting for the Kurdish YPG militia. Now a court in Sirnak has sentenced the German man to over six years in prison.

German and Turkish flags
Image: picture alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka

A Turkish court on Friday sentenced a German man to six years and three months in prison for membership of a terrorist organization. In addition, he received a suspended sentence of one year and eight months in jail for entering a military exclusion zone.

Since last year, a number of German citizens have been detained in Turkey, putting serious strain on relations between Berlin and Ankara.

Details of the case

  • Patrick K. was arrested near the Turkish-Syrian border on March 14.
  • Turkish authorities charged him with being a member of the YPG, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist group along with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
  • Local authorities also reportedly said that Patrick K. confessed to wanting to join PYD/YPG and that he'd served for several years in the German military.
  • Turkish officials have not revealed the circumstances under which Patrick K. confessed, nor have they said if an independent interpreter was present.
  • His family said that the 29-year-old was in the area to go hiking. At the time of his arrest, the Bundeswehr told DW that Patrick K. was never a member of the German military.
  • The court hearing on Friday lasted under an hour, according to Patrick K.'s lawyer. His trial only began three weeks ago.

Conflicting accounts: Turkish authorities claim to have found an email that Patrick K. sent to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the armed faction of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), according to German public broadcaster ARD, citing the Turkish indictment. In the email he allegedly offered to fight for the group in exchange for help. The case was based on the testimony of Patrick K.'s cellmate, who allegedly recognized the German man. The witness claimed to have seen Patrick K. in a YPG uniform working as a doctor at a hospital in Syria in January this year. There was no evidence in the indictment, however, that shows that Patrick K. traveled to Syria.

Patrick K.'s family concerned for his health

The 29-year-old's friends and family back in Germany were shocked by the prison sentence, maintaining that the charges against him were baseless.

"Patrick was convicted for nothing, that was an awful surprise," one of his friends told news agency DPA.

Ahead of Friday's court decision, Patrick K.'s mother told DPA that she was concerned for her son's health, saying that he was currently suffering from an ear infection and had lost three teeth. He's been detained for the last seven months in a prison in the eastern Turkish province of Elazig.

Patrick K.'s lawyer, Huseyin Bilgi, said his client was "very sad" about the sentence.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed to Reuters news agency that Patrick K. had been sentenced.

'Imprisonments not acceptable'

German minister in Turkey: The verdict coincided with German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier's two-day visit to Turkey. Altmaier underscored Berlin's commitment to "compliance with human rights and press freedom," but shied away from directly calling out the Turkish government. During talks in Ankara on Friday, Altmaier said that he wants to discuss Patrick K.'s case in sideline discussions with Turkish officials.

'Political arrests': In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government jailed thousands of people under sweeping anti-terror laws. Several dual German-Turkish nationals were also detained, including a correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, Deniz Yücel, human rights activist Peter Steudtner, and journalist Mesale Tolu. Many have since been released from prison in Turkey, but still face charges there. At least five German nationals are still detained in Turkey for what Berlin describes as "political reasons."

What happens next: Patrick K. is planning on appealing the Turkish court's sentence, his lawyer said.

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Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.