German police briefly detained two journalists working for a Turkish newspaper and searched their homes in an operation that drew a sharp protest from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Turkey summoned the German ambassador in Ankara on Wednesday to condemn the operation that targeted journalists from a pro-government Turkish newspaper in the latest case of tensions between the two NATO allies.
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Officers searched the homes of two journalists, aged 46 and 51, in a Frankfurt suburb on Wednesday morning “on suspicion of endangering the dissemination of personal data”, according to the regional police force and the prosecutor in the nearby city of Darmstadt.
“During the operation, the investigators seized electronic storage media and other evidence. After the criminal investigation was completed, the two men were released,” said a joint news release by the Darmstadt Public Prosecutor’s Office and the South Hesse Police.
Germany is home to the world’s largest Turkish diaspora community, but relations between Berlin and Ankara have suffered in recent years over many issues, including Germany’s handling of the followers of the United States-based Muslim leader Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for a 2016 failed coup.
Turkey has been enraged over Germany’s refusal to extradite military officers whom Ankara accuses of participating in the coup attempt after they claimed asylum.
Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency reported that German police had raided the Frankfurt office of the Turkish daily Sabah before detaining the journalists.
Turkey’s foreign ministry denounced the “harassment and intimidation” of the reporters, who work for the pro-government Sabah.
It said that what it described as the “arrests” of the journalists were “a deliberate act”, coming days after the first round of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Germany’s action against the free press, which aims to teach the whole world about the freedom of press and expression, reveals its double-standard approach,” the ministry said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media director, Fahrettin Altun, condemned the reported raids and the confiscation of the reporters’ equipment.
“We find Germany’s stance on silencing journalists unacceptable, and we are concerned about the repression of press freedom in this country,” he wrote on Twitter.
The diplomatic row erupted after elections on Sunday in which Erdogan fell just short of securing re-election in the first round of voting.
He enters a May 28 run-off as the favourite against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has promised to broaden Turkey’s media freedoms.
Sabah belongs to the Turkuvaz Media Group, which has close ties to Erdogan’s family. Its Frankfurt bureau is the headquarters for its European operations.