Turkey arrests German embassy lawyer for ‘spying’

Berlin's mission in Ankara has been campaigning for his release and fears authorities may have seized asylum applications

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan salutes supporters after Friday prayers, in Istanbul, Nov. 8, 2019. ( Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool )
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A co-operation lawyer for the German embassy in Turkey has been detained in Ankara on suspicion of espionage, raising tensions between the two Nato allies, it has been reported.

Der Spiegel reported the German federal government fears that Turkey's authorities and its secret service MIT have seized data and files of about 50 Turkish citizens who have applied for asylum in Germany while arresting the lawyer in September.

Among the applicants are prominent Kurds and supporters of prominent cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is living in exile in the US and is blamed by Ankara for an attempted coup in 2016.

The embassy had instructed the Turkish lawyer to obtain information in Ankara for asylum procedures of Turkish citizens in Germany.

One of the solicitor’s requests included asking the police and public prosecutor's office whether proceedings against the people are under way in Turkey, or whether they are threatened with imprisonment on their return home.

The German Foreign Office then forwarded the findings to the Office for Migration and Refugees, which decides on asylum applications.

The office told the German newspaper that the lawyer had researched information for the asylum proceedings in Turkey in a completely legal and open manner.

Talks are being held between German and Turkish diplomats to try to secure the lawyer’s release.

Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, has tried several times to explain to Turkish authorities that the investigations were a routine procedure. But he has been unsuccessful.

"We are intensively trying to find out what the accusations are and to lift the remand,” a German official said. “The detention is incomprehensible.”

The German government is reportedly concerned that those seeking protection could be harassed or even threatened by Turkey.

German state security has warned the citizens concerned that the Turkish secret service received detailed information through the arrest of the lawyer.

The German Foreign Office condemned the arrest as "incomprehensible”, in a new strain of relations between Ankara and Berlin.

The office feared that the lawyer could be sentenced to a long prison term by Turkey.

Ankara has accused Berlin of actively supporting Turkish opponents of the regime in their asylum applications.

Relations between the two countries have been further strained by Germany's criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected opponents after the failed coup and Turkey's military incursion against Kurdish militants in Syria.