Human rights activist released in Turkey

German human rights activist Peter Steudtner has been released from pre-trial custody in Turkey and has returned to Berlin. Apparently former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder undertook several weeks ago to secure his release. Some commentators view these latest developments as a sign of détente, while others see little reason to celebrate.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Steudtner case just a farce

The liberation of the human rights activist Peter Steudtner in Turkey negotiated by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder is the provisional end of a farce, Der Standard writes:

“In the end Steudtner will have served 113 days of pre-trial detention owing to 'strong proof' of his membership in various terrorist organisations. What Schröder offered the Turkish leader in exchange remains a secret for now, just like the entire mediation process. Presumably the goal was to protect Germany's economic ties with Turkey. Outwardly the facade has been preserved: the Turkish judiciary took the decision, naturally without any meddling on the part of the president's office. For the Turkish human rights activists the trial will nonetheless continue. As flimsy as the charges may seem, what we are seeing here is the criminalisation of civil society activities in Turkey.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Erdoğan has taken Germany hostage

Steudtner's release is not just cause for celebration, Deutschlandfunk points out:

“The German government's initiative for freeing the hostages with Schröder as a negotiator leaves many questions unanswered: What was the price for Steudtner's release? What price is Erdoğan asking in return for releasing the German journalists Deniz Yücel and Meşale Tolu? ... Erdoğan had publicly prejudged Yücel and threatened not to let him go free as long as he was in office. However, he often says one thing one day and then the exact opposite the next. Despots like Erdoğan don't care about saving face. They're weak and bribable. Germany must show resolve and free all German hostages. Soon it will seem as if since the refugee agreement Erdoğan has taken the entire German government hostage.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Signs of a détente

The release of eleven human rights activists could help improve the tense relations between Berlin and Ankara, Hürriyet columnist Deniz Zeyrek believes:

“The Germans already see the decision to release the activists as 'encouraging'. Meanwhile there have been important and positive developments regarding human rights and press freedom since Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ was removed from office and replaced by Abdulhamit Gül on 19 July 2017. ... The new state secretary of the Ministry of Justice Selahattin Menteş is also known for being sensitive on human rights. I see that the stance and little emphases of these two men regarding the trials could change the current situation in which the negative perception of Turkey in the West and the distance between Turkey and Europe is growing.”