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Germany warns its citizens travelling to Turkey ‘they risk arrest’

Escalation of the diplomatic row between Berlin and Ankara ended in a clear message. Foreign   Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned German citizens that they risk arrest if they travel to Turkey.

The German government on Friday warned citizens travelling to Turkey that they are at risk of arrest.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Germany had revised its travel advice in the wake of the recent arrests of several human rights activists, including German national Peter Steudtner.

Steudtner “was no Turkey expert – he never wrote about Turkey, he had no contacts in the political establishment … and never appeared as a critic,” Gabriel told reporters.

He added that this meant that any German national travelling to Turkey could suffer the same fate.

Human rights consultant Peter Steudtner

Peter Steudtner, a human rights consultant and documentary film maker, was arrested together with five more people in Istanbul on July 5. Among the other activists arrested is also Amnesty International’s director for Turkey, Idil Eser.

Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International Turkey was among those arrested

The arrested activists are to remain in custody awaiting trial for allegedly aiding a terror group. Pre-trial detention in Turkey can last for up to five years due to the state of emergency law that went into effect after the failed coup attend last year.

Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said that the arrested human rights activists had been accused of supporting an “armed terrorist organization” without being members, though the Turkish court did not provide details or name the terror group.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Steudtner’s detention, saying it was “absolutely unjustified.”

“We declare our solidarity with him and all the others arrested … the German government will do all it can, on all levels, to secure his release,” she said.

The foreign ministry issued a separate statement calling for the rapid release of the six activists. “Linking a fighter and spokesman for human rights and democracy like Peter Steudtner to supporters of terrorists is absurd,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted a quote by Angela Merkel on Foreign Minister’s measures.

Chancellor Merkel: “The measures presented by Foreign Ministry concerning Turkey are necessary and indispensable with regards to the developments.”

Now Gabriel, Merkel and European Union officials work closely to decide on other diplomatic and economic sanctions against Turkey.

As a first step, Berlin strikes a blow to tourism and investment. Then it will seek ways to stop EU funding to the country where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned into an absolute dictator.

Ankara has accused Berlin of intervening in its internal issues. The diplomatic row between the two countries has a long background. Berlin did not allow Erdogan and other officials to hold open meetings with Turks in Germany, Ankara banned German Lawmakers from visiting troops in the air base Incirlik. Result: German troops moved to another country. Ever since last July, Ankara has been accusing Germany of ‘hosting coup plotters and terrorists’ as Berlin granted asylum to several hundreds of Turkish officers assigned to NATO.

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