WASHINGTON – Celal Baslangic was at his Cologne home on July 16 when two German police knocked on his door and warned the veteran Turkish journalist that his name was apparently on a list of people likely to be the target of violence.
Police provided Baslangic with the contact details of an officer overseeing an investigation into a list of around 50 vocal critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, some of whom live in Germany.
Rumors of such a list were already circulating among the exiled community. But as police investigate the veracity of the list, attention has turned to Ankara’s ability to reach dissidents who have left the country to avoid persecution.
Listed journalists and experts say nationalist groups linked to violent crimes are operating in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and exiles who have fled persecution in Turkey no longer feel safe.
Baslangic, a veteran journalist with 47 years of experience, left Turkey in early 2017 as authorities arrested dozens of journalists and others accused of supporting or abetting a failed coup attempt the year former.
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The former Cumhuriyet and T24 journalist has been charged with terrorist propaganda for participating in a campaign of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem.
Baslangic told VOA he believed the list of apparent results was an attempt to intimidate journalists and media outlets like Arti TV, the Turkish news network he founded when he moved to Cologne.
I don’t think it’s just because of Erdogan. It can be seen as an effort by the coalition partners that will prevent Erdogan from moving closer to both the European Union and NATO, Baslangic said.
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a parliamentary alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The Turkish Embassy in Berlin did not return emailed requests for comment to VOA.
Cologne police have confirmed that they have been aware of this list of apparent results since mid-July, but declined to provide further information on the number of individuals and the identity of those on the list.
Those affected are journalists, writers and artists close to the Turkish opposition, a spokesperson told VOA.
But Baslangic said he wanted more transparency on the list.
We want to know the source of this list so that we can take it seriously, or [know if] it’s just to intimidate us, so that we can make a difference, said Baslangic. No one can tell it better than we do, because we know the Turkish state, and we know what that state can do.
For some journalists, like Erk Acarer, the warning that he was on the list came as no surprise.
On July 7, three assailants attacked the daily BirGun columnist in the courtyard of his Berlin apartment complex. The Turkish-speaking assailants warned Acarer to stop writing.
Acarer had to be hospitalized for a head injury, and German police are investigating, the reporter told VOA. He added that the police had ensured his protection and that of his family.
On July 20, however, Berlin police found a threatening note wrapped around a hard-boiled egg in the yard of his home.
Last night they threw a pin egg on the garden of my house with the text “You are waiting”, the police gave the information in the morning. The AKP-MHP government will be responsible for any new incident that happens to me, and the German government, which I thought was inactive on the measures, will be responsible. pic.twitter.com/sjnVLNrqER
Erk Acarer (@eacarer) July 20, 2021
Acarer says he believes the Turkish government has a long reach in Europe and beyond.
The polarization and conflict in Turkey is carried to Europe and other parts of the world by the AKP and MHP governments. So I think the attackers are the gangs that were consolidated by [the Turkish government] and live in Germany, Acarer told VOA.
Acarer did not specify a group, although networks including the Gray Wolves and Osmanen Germania operate outside Turkey.
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In one Report 2020, Berlin estimated that in Germany 11,000 people are affiliated with the ultranationalist movement of which the Gray Wolves are a part. The far-right Turkish group has been accused of politically motivated violence in Turkey and abroad.
Separately, German media alleged in 2017 that Metin Kulunk, a senior AKP member, had ties to Turkish nationalist group Osmanen Germania.
The group was banned in Germany in 2018 because of its links to violent crime and far-right views.
VOA could not find contact details for Kulunk. The AKP media chairman did not respond to VOA’s email.
Kulunk responded to 2017 media reports via social media, claiming that Germany supports the PKK and FETO group, and that its deep state’s media operations unsuccessfully tried to target me and civil society organizations. Turkish.
Ankara said the FETO group was behind the failed coup attempt. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the EU.
No security in exile
Hayko Bagdat, an exiled Turkish Armenian journalist, said that Germany’s foreign policy priorities with Turkey, including the EU’s refugee deal and Turkey’s potential role in Afghanistan, preclude Berlin to discuss human rights issues with Ankara.
Police also informed Baghdat that his name was on the apparent list.
We are no longer a subject on their agenda at the negotiating table with the Erdogan regime. Democracy in Turkey, prisoners, imprisoned politicians, people in exile or their safety are no longer even an argument used against Erdogan, Baghdat told VOA.
Because of this, Baghdat said, dissidents around the world do not feel safe.
The journalist moved to Berlin from Istanbul in 2016 and Turkey subsequently issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of terrorist propaganda and insult.
An official source from the German Foreign Ministry told VOA by email that Germany has repeatedly campaigned for journalists and respect for their rights in Turkey.
For all people living in Germany, it must be ensured that they are not threatened by any violence, regardless of their underlying motives, the source said, adding that any deficit in respect for freedom of expression and of the media is treated in a consistent manner.
Laurens Hueting, advocacy manager for the Leipzig-based European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), finds the attack on Acarer and the list of alleged targets disturbing.
Living in exile is not enough for Turkish journalists to escape the persecution they face in their own country, which is a pretty frightening development in itself, Hueting told VOA, describing Germany as a safe haven.
What we are advocating and saying is that there should not be this half-hearted approach and that human rights should always be at the center and foreground of this relationship consistently, and not be subordinate. to other geopolitical considerations, Hueting said. .
Despite all the political debate and attention to the apparent list of results, for those directly affected, this is one more threat they face solely because of their profession.
When asked if he was taking steps to protect his safety, Baslangic replied: What can we do? Are we supposed to have guns? Were journalists and did our job.
This report comes from the Turkish service of VOA.
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