Turkey ramped up its dispute with Germany Wednesday when it demanded the extradition of an Islamic lecturer accused of supporting a failed coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The two NATO allies have been at odds since the coup attempt in July last year. Following the failure of the coup, Mr. Erdogan began a massive crackdown – firing civil servants, closing newspapers and arresting regime opponents.
Adil Öksüz is a civilian but was known as the “imam of the Air Force” at the time of the coup attempt because of his close relationship with air force officers. He was briefly detained after the putsch near Ankara’s Akinci airbase, which was the center of the coup, but was released shortly thereafter and has since disappeared.
“He is a leader of the Air Force personnel who bombed the Turkish parliament”
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on Wednesday that a diplomatic note had been sent to Berlin asking whether Mr. Öksüz has applied for asylum in the state of Baden-Württemberg. If that is true, Mr. Cavusoglu said, then he should be extradited back to Turkey.
“He is a leader of the Air Force personnel who bombed the Turkish parliament,” the foreign minister said.
Turkish news media have reported that Mr. Öksüz has been spotted in Frankfurt and has been given a temporary residence permit, which could raise tensions between the two countries after what seemed like a cooling off in recent weeks.
After Turkey compiled a list of German firms it accused of working with the coup plotters and arrested a German human rights activist, the German government responded by warning German companies and tourists that it could be dangerous to visit Turkey. The Ankara government, fearful of losing trade, quickly backed off and rescinded the list of companies it wanted to investigate.
The demand for extradition of Mr. Öksüz now risks reopening the wounds just a few short weeks before Germany holds national elections. Not wishing to appear weak in the face of Turkish threats at election time, German politicians have taken a hard line with Ankara, which accuses the Germans of indirectly supporting the coup.
Germany also has suspended arms sales to Turkey in an effort to win freedom for human rights activist Peter Steudtner as well as two German journalists of Turkish extraction.
The Turkish government alleges that the coup plot was masterminded by an Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who is now living in the US state of Pennsylvania. Mr. Öksüz is alleged to have been a follower of Mr. Gülen.
More than 250 people died in the coup attempt and more than 50,000 people have since been arrested. Germany believes Mr. Erdogan may be using the coup plot to establish an undemocratic government.
Ozan Demircan reported this story for Handelsblatt. Charles Wallace adapted this story to English. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org