Crisis between turkey and the usa – furor over charges against peter steudtner

In the midst of the dispute with germany, turkey now also has a massive diplomatic crisis with the u.S.: the u.S. Government halted the issuance of visas to all diplomatic missions in turkey indefinitely. Reason was the arrest of a turkish employee of the US consulate general in istanbul.

The government in ankara responded by also suspending the issuance of visas to U.S. Citizens. The U.S. Embassy’s chief of staff was summoned to the ankara-based ministry of foreign affairs on monday, state news agency anadolu reported.

No relaxation is in sight in the dispute between ankara and berlin over imprisoned germans: the federal government reiterated its protest against the turkish judiciary’s indictment of german human rights activist peter steudtner. "The fact is that we have no reason whatsoever to even suspect that mr. Steudtner is guilty of any crime", said german federal minister sigmar gabriel in berlin on monday. "We in the federal government consider the release and free departure of mr. Steudtner to be appropriate."

Indictment reads "like a bad novel

On sunday, the public prosecutor’s office presented the indictment against steudtner, his swedish colleague ali gharavi and nine turkish human rights activists. According to lawyer murat boduroglu, steudtner and gharavi face a maximum of ten years in prison for supporting a terrorist organization. Turkish media had previously reported a sentence of up to 15 years. Boduroglu criticized: "the indictment contains only allegations and absurd accusations. It reads like a bad novel."

The lawyer stressed that because of the lack of evidence contained in the indictment, it did not meet the requirements of the turkish code of criminal procedure. "We will therefore ask the court not to open a main trial and to release our clients." Boduroglu sees it as positive that the indictment was submitted so quickly. In the case of other detainees under investigation, such as the "welt"-correspondent deniz yucel it is still not available.

Steudtner, gharavi and eight other defendants were arrested on 5. July at a human rights seminar on the island of buyukada off the coast of istanbul. Amnesty chairman kilic had already been remanded in custody in izmir in june. His case had surprisingly been included in the indictment.

Striving for relaxation

The turkish government had recently stated that it was trying to ease the conflict with germany. At the same time, however, ankara’s crisis with the u.S. Escalated, culminating in the mutual visa blockade. The visa ban makes it very difficult for business travelers and tourists to travel to each other’s countries.

In view of the visa dispute, the share price of turkish airlines on the stock exchange in istanbul temporarily fell by more than nine percent. The airline said tickets on routes between turkey and the u.S. Could be rebooked or refunded free of charge for citizens of the two countries until the end of the month. The dispute placed a considerable burden on the turkish stock exchange and the turkish government on monday.

Last year, 313,654 turks traveled to the u.S., according to official turkish figures. Conversely, 459,453 americans arrived in turkey in 2016, according to government statistics in ankara. The mutual visa freeze is severely straining the already tense relations between the two nato countries. The USA – like germany – demands the release of imprisoned state prisoners in turkey.

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