November 22, 2019 / 9:44 AM / 19 days ago

German ambassador says Turkey should explain charges against arrested lawyer

FILE PHOTO: German Ambassador to Turkey Martin Erdmann talks to media outside the women's prison of Bakirkoy, where German journalist Mesale Tolu is being held, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

ANKARA (Reuters) - Germany’s ambassador to Turkey said the arrest of a Turkish lawyer hired by the German embassy is “incomprehensible” and he is pressing Ankara to clarify the charges, according to a statement seen by Reuters.

The lawyer was arrested in mid-September, a German official said on Wednesday.

“Our legal consultant has provided our Embassy with support that is ordinary from an international perspective and undoubtedly not forbidden. Such cooperation should be possible without any obstacles,” ambassador Martin Erdmann said in a statement.

“This arrest is incomprehensible for us. This is why we are making intense efforts for the charges being mentioned to be made clear, and we have brought this up repeatedly with Turkey,” Erdmann added.

Relations between the two countries have been strained over German criticism of President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected opponents after a failed coup in 2016, and Turkey’s military offensive last month against a Kurdish Syrian militia.

The lawyer had been hired by the German Embassy to provide documents related to Turkish citizens who had applied for asylum in Germany, German media reported.

“Legal consultants are important counterparts at our Embassy in Ankara, as they are at all our missions, in clearing up and better evaluating issues related to the regulations of the country we are in,” Erdmann said.

The number of Turks seeking asylum in Germany has risen since the 2016 failed coup that Erdogan says was planned by supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who were deeply embedded in Turkey’s institutions.

Between January and October this year, some 9,500 Turks applied for asylum in Germany, up 8% from the same period last year, official figures show, making Turks the third-largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians and Iraqis.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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