Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Germany of supporting terrorism after German authorities canceled planned rallies in support of a referendum in Turkey aimed at expanding Erdogan’s executive powers.
The German authorities “need to be put on trial for aiding and harboring terror,” Erdogan said in Istanbul on Friday.
The Turkish president’s comments come after a group of German legislators called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to ban him from entering the country while Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist for German daily Die Welt, continues to be held in Turkish police custody since February 14.
The call was followed by the cancellation of a number of pro-Erdogan rallies in Germany, which in turn prompted Turkey to summon the German ambassador in protest.
Yücel, who is “a representative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) [and] a German agent, was hidden for a month in the German consulate. When we told them to hand him over to be tried, they refused,” Erdogan said.
The journalist is accused of alleged links to the hacker collective RedHack, which obtained the emails of Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, and made them available on the online leaking platform WikiLeaks.
The Turkish authorities have also accused Yücel (pictured below) of supporting the outlawed PKK, which Ankara deems as a terrorist organization, and thus arrested him on charges of terrorist propaganda, inciting hatred and spying activities.
Yücel’s detainment has caused grave damage to bilateral relations, with Merkel criticizing Turkey’s handling of the journalist’s case as “bitter,” “disappointing” and “disproportionate.”
The Turkish leader also lambasted the German authorities for allegedly allowing PKK militants to sneak into the European country while the rallies, where Turkish ministers were to lead, were cancelled.
Ankara, which expects to gain support from 1.4 million Turks in Germany eligible to vote in the plebiscite, accuses Berlin of working for a “No” vote ahead of the April referendum.
Relations between Turkey and Germany have soured following a series of disputes since a failed coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan last year.
Turkish officials say over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured following the botched July 15 putsch. Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.