German writer held in Spain on Turkish warrant granted conditional release | World news

Germany welcomed the release on Sunday of a German writer detained in Spain on a Turkish warrant and accused Turkey of abusing the international system used to hunt down fugitives.

Turkish-born writer Doğan Akhanlı, who has German citizenship, was arrested on Saturday while on holiday in southern Spain. Akhanlı was conditionally released after a court hearing on Sunday, but ordered to remain in Madrid while Turkey’s extradition request is considered, his lawyer said.

It was not immediately clear what Akhanlı is accused of, but the author has in the past written about the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915. The killings are a sensitive subject in Turkey, which rejects the widespread view that they constituted genocide.

In a statement, the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, praised Akhanlı’s release and said “it would be terrible if Turkey could get people who raise their voice against [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan imprisoned on the other side of Europe.

“I have complete faith in Spain’s judicial system and know that our friends and partners in the Spanish government understand what’s at stake,” Gabriel said.

Erdoğan hit back while speaking to supporters in Istanbul, attributing Ankara’s souring relations with Berlin to next month’s German election and warning Germany to “mind its own business”.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the arrest of Akhanlı was wrong.

“We mustn’t abuse international organisations like Interpol for this,” she told German broadcaster RTL.

German chancellor Angela Merkel



German chancellor Angela Merkel has called Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks on the German election ‘unacceptable’. Photograph: Sebastian Kahnert/AP

The already high tensions between the two countries hit another peak on Friday when Erdoğan said all of Germany’s mainstream parties were enemies of Turkey and urged Turkish-Germans to not vote for them in the upcoming election.

Merkel called Erdoğan’s comments “completely unacceptable”.

“I invite everyone to vote, here in a free country,” she said.

Merkel said she would work hard to improve prison conditions for a number of Germans currently detained in Turkey on accusations of supporting banned organisations.

Akhanlı emigrated to Germany in 1991 after spending years in a Turkish prison following the 1980 military coup in the country.

The German section of the writers’ association PEN called the arrest warrant against Akhanlı politically motivated.

Spain is also holding Turkish-Swedish reporter and writer Hamza Yalcin, who was arrested on 3 August in Barcelona on a Turkish warrant for alleged terrorism.

PEN and Reporters Without Borders have demanded his release. The Swedish branch of Reporters Without Borders said Yalcin’s arrest was an attempt by Erdoğan to show he can reach critical voices abroad.

Spain’s Freedom of Information Defence Platform said it welcomed the decision on Akhanlı, but reiterated that it expects Yalcin to be let go and Spain to explain both arrests.

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Germany urges Spain not to extradite Erdoğan critic to Turkey | World news

Germany’s foreign minister has urged Spain not to extradite a German writer to Turkey after he was arrested on a Turkish warrant.

Sigmar Gabriel called his Spanish counterpart over the arrest of Doğan Akhanlı while in Granada on holiday.

Akhanlı was born in Turkey but emigrated to Germany in 1991 after spending years in Turkish prison following the 1984 military coup in the country.

He was arrested after Turkey issued an Interpol warrant for the writer, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, increasing tensions between the Nato allies.

The arrest of the writer was part of a “targeted hunt against critics of the Turkish government living abroad in Europe,” Akhanlı’s lawyer Ilias Uyar told magazine Der Spiegel, which first reported Akhanlı’s detention.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Angela Merkel



Tensions remain high between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Angela Merkel. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images

Any country can issue an Interpol “red notice”, but extradition by Spain would only follow if Ankara could convince Spanish courts it had a real case against him.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been increasingly strained in the aftermath of last year’s failed coup in Turkey as Turkish authorities sacked or suspended 150,000 people and detained more than 50,000, including other German nationals.

“This is a development of dramatic significance,” said Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz at a campaign rally. “As part of his (Erdoğan’s) paranoid counter-putsch, he is reaching out for our citizens on the territory of European Union states.”

Schulz, who seeks to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s elections, called for talks on Turkey joining the EU’s customs union to be suspended, saying that Erdoğan was “every day testing the limits of how far he can go.”

The German Journalists’ Union warned journalists critical of Ankara to have German police check their Interpol records before travelling abroad.

“To our knowledge, our colleague has done nothing wrong,” said Frank Überall, the union’s president.

The German section of the PEN literary network said charges against Akhanlı center on a crime committed while he wasn’t in Turkey. The group said it believes the arrest warrant against Akhanlı to be politically motivated, citing his writings about the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915.

Merkel has been cautious in her criticism of Erdoğan despite Ankara’s arrests of German citizens. Critics say she is beholden to him because Turkey stands in the way of another wave of Syrian war refugees arriving in Europe, as they did in 2015.

Akhanlı, detained in the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey for opposition activities, including running a leftist newspaper, fled Turkey in 1991 and has lived and worked in the German city of Cologne since 1995.

On Friday, Erdoğan urged the 3 million or so people of Turkish background living in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Germany’s main parties by boycotting them in the elections.

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Democracy is dying – and it’s startling how few people are worried | Paul Mason | Opinion

A rough inventory of July’s contribution to the global collapse of democracy would include Turkey’s show trial of leading journalists from Cumhuriyet, a major newspaper; Vladimir Putin’s ban on the virtual private networks used by democracy activists to evade censorship; Apple’s decision to pull the selfsame technology from its Chinese app store.

Then there is Hungary’s government-funded poster campaign depicting opposition parties and NGOs as puppets of Jewish billionaire George Soros; Poland’s evisceration of judicial independence and the presidential veto that stopped it. Plus Venezuela’s constituent assembly poll, boycotted by more than half the population amid incipient civil war.

Overshadowing all this is a three-cornered US constitutional face-off between Trump (accused of links with Russia), his attorney general (who barred himself from investigating the Russian links) and the special prosecutor who is investigating Trump, whom Trump is trying to sack.

Let’s be brutal: democracy is dying. And the most startling thing is how few ordinary people are worried about it. Instead we compartmentalise the problem. Americans worried about the present situation typically worry about Trump – not the pliability of the most fetishised constitution in the world to kleptocratic rule. EU politicians express polite diplomatic displeasure, as Erdoğan’s AK party machine attempts to degrade their own democracies. As in the early 1930s, the death of democracy always seems to be happening somewhere else.

The problem is it sets new norms of behaviour. It is no accident that the “enemies of the people” meme is doing the rounds: Orbán uses it against the billionaire George Soros, Trump uses it against the liberal press, China used it to jail the poet Liu Xiaobo and keep him in prison until his death.

Another popular technique is the micromanaged enforcement of non-dissent. Erdoğan not only sacked tens of thousands of dissenting academics, and jailed some, but removed their social security rights, revoked their rights to teach, and in some cases to travel. Trump is engaged in a similar micromanagerial attack on so called “sanctuary cities”. About 300 US local governments have pledged – entirely legally – not to collaborate with the federal immigration agency ICE. Last week the US attorney general Jeff Sessions threatened federal grants to these cities’ local justice systems, a move Trump hailed using yet another fashionable technique – the unverified claim.

Trump told a rally of supporters in Ohio that the federal government was in fact “liberating” American cities from immigrant crime gangs. They “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die”, he said. At school – and I mean primary school – we were taught to greet such claims about racial minorities with the question: “Really? When and where did this happen?” Trump cited no evidence – though the US press managed to find examples in which gang members had indeed hacked each other.

This repertoire of autocratic rule is of course not new; what makes it novel is its concerted and combined use by elected rulers – Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán, Trump, Maduro, Duterte in the Philippines and Modi in India – who are quite clearly engaged in a rapid, purposive and common project to hollow out democracy.

Equally striking is that, right now, there is no major country prepared to set positive global standards for democracy.

In her 2015 book, Undoing the Demos, UC Berkeley political science professor Wendy Brown made a convincing case that the world’s backsliding on democratic values has been driven by its adoption of neoliberal economics.

It is not, argues Brown, that freemarket elites purposefully embrace the project of autocracy, but that the economic microstructures created in the last 30 years “transmogrify every human domain and endeavour, including humans themselves, according to a specific image of the economic”. All action is judged as if it has an economic outcome: free speech, education, political participation. We learn implicitly to weigh what should be principles as if they were commodities. We ask: is it “worth” allowing some cities to protect illegal migrants? What is the economic downside of sacking tens of thousands of academics and dictating what they can research?

In his influential 2010 testament, Indignez-Vous (Time for Outrage!), the French resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel urged the rising generation of social justice activists to remember the fight he and others had put up during the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They fought for the word universal (not “international” as proposed by the main governments) in the full knowledge that arguments about sovereignty would sooner or later be advanced to deny the rights they thought they had secured. It seemed odd, back then, even to those of us sympathetic to Hessel, to receive this long, repetitive lecture about the concept of universality. But he was prescient.

The tragedy today is that there is not a single democratic government on Earth prepared to defend that principle. Sure, they will issue notes of displeasure over the death of Liu Xiaobo or Maduro’s crackdown. But they refuse to restate the universality of the principles these actions violate. The fight for universal principles has to begin – as Hessel recognised – with individual people. We must keep restating to ourselves and those around us that our human rights are, as the 1948 declaration states, “equal and inalienable”. That means if one faraway kleptocrat steals them from his subjects, that is like stealing them from ourselves.

Every democratic advance in history, from the English revolution of 1642 to the fall of Soviet communism in 1989, began when people understood the concept of rights they were born with, not to be granted or withdrawn. Today that means learning to think like a free human being, not an economic subject.

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