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Germany, Sweden protest to Turkey over jailing of activists

Germany and Sweden made a joint protest to Turkey on Wednesday about the jailing of two human rights activists, demanding that the men be told what exactly they are accused of, the foreign ministry in Berlin said.

Peter Steudtner of Germany and Ali Gharavi of Sweden were arrested July 5 during a raid on a hotel where they were attending a digital security workshop. They were among six activists, also including Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser, who were then jailed last week for allegedly aiding an unspecified armed terror group.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters in Berlin that Germany and Sweden complained to Turkey, saying that the two governments don’t understand why the men were jailed. They also said they don’t understand the circumstances of the men’s arrests, and “expect that they at least now be told in substantiated terms what they are accused of.”

Schaefer noted that Steudtner neither speaks Turkish nor had been to Turkey before, and is an information technology specialist. “What is the terror organization that Peter Steudtner allegedly belongs to?” he asked.

Schaefer also sharply criticized Turkish media for publishing extracts from the questioning of Steudtner.

Steudtner’s jailing has sent already strained German-Turkish ties to a new low. The German government last week told citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Turkey and threatened to withhold backing for investments there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that his country would continue “to breathe down the neck of agents who run around freely” in Turkey.

“We find it hard to tolerate the Steudtner case again being prejudged on the Turkish government’s side in a way that is completely contradictory,” Schaefer said. “Formally, he is accused of membership in a terrorist organization. Now we hear from the Turkish president that he was at the same time a spy for Germany and wanted to divide the country.”

AP – Berlin

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