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German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli freed

August 20, 2017

German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli, who was detained in Spain after Turkey issued an Interpol arrest warrant, has been released. His detention added more strain to ties between Turkey and Germany.

Dogan Akhanli
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Kaiser

Merkel warns Turkey in row over German writer

A day after being released from a jail in Spain, the German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli said he had never imagined that Ankara could order an EU citizen's arrest in an EU country.

"I did not expect the arm of the Turkish government to reach to Spain," Akhanli told the German magazine Der Spiegel on Monday.

Akhanli was released on Sunday following a court hearing after he had been arrestedon an Interpol warrant issued by Turkey.

"The fight was worth it," Akhanli's lawyer, Ilias Uyar, wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. "Dogan Akhanli is being released."

Akhanli was released from detention on the condition that he remain in Madrid for 40 days, a period during which Turkey could send a formal extradition request, Uyar added.

"I can't imagine that, as a German citizen, I will be surrendered to a non-EU country," Akhanli told Spiegel, "but, of course, I am worried."

The 60-year-old was detained Saturday morning at his hotel in the southern Spanish city of Granada.

Ankara demands extradition of Turkish-German writer

Merkel: 'Unacceptable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Turkey's use of Interpol to detain Akhanli, saying it amounted to an abuse of the agency.

"It is not right, and I'm very glad that Spain has now released him," Merkel said. "We must not misuse international organizations like Interpol for such purposes," she told voters at a town hall event televised by RTL on Sunday.

Merkel noted that it was just one of many cases in which Turkey had pursued and detained German citizens.

"That's why we have massively changed our Turkish policy recently ... because it's quite unacceptable that Erdogan does this," Merkel said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Akhanli's release, describing it as a win as Turkey's government cracks down on critics.

"It would be horrible if Turkey could also have people jailed on the other end of Europe for raising their voice against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Gabriel said in a statement on Sunday.

Earlier on Saturday Gabriel, who was in Barcelona to pay his respects to the victims of last week's terror attacks, had called the arrest warrant politically motivated and directly intervene to pressed his Spanish counterpart not to extradite Akhanli to Turkey. 

Armenian genocide

It was unclear why Turkish authorities issued the arrest warrant, but in a Facebook post on Saturday Uyar suggested that Turkey had targeted the Cologne-based writer for advocating the recognition of Turkey's mass killing of Armenians as genocide.

Last summer, Germany's parliament voted to recognize the massacre, deportation and starvation of up to 1.5 million Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire as "genocide."  As the successor state, Turkey has never formally declared that the "events of 1915" amounted to genocide and officials have lashed out at countries that use the term. 

Turkey responded to the Bundestag's genocide resolution by blocking parliamentarians from visiting German soldiers who were stationed at Incirlik base in southern Turkey as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. In response to repeated blocking of parliamentary visits, the German parliament in June voted to pull its troops from Incirlik and move them to a base in Jordan. 

Akhanli has lived in Germany since he fled Turkey in 1991 and has citizenship. He has written extensively on Turkey's human rights record and the Armenian genocide.

He was also detained in August 2010 on manslaughter and robbery charges when he traveled to Istanbul, but was set free that December.

The relationship between Turkey and Germany has become increasingly strained following last year's failed coup. 

Under a state of emergency, authorities have fired or suspended some 150,000 people and detained over 50,000 people. Those detained include German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel. 

Turkey accuses Germany of supporting coup plotters and terrorists, charges that officials in Berlin vehemently deny. 

rs, cw/bk (AP, AFP, epd, dpa, Reuters)