‘You’re aiding terror!’ Erdogan slams Germany after Merkel’s critical comments

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan © Murat Cetinmuhurdar
After German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Turkey’s latest press crackdown, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Berlin for providing refuge to members of organizations that are illegal in his country, saying Germany is “aiding terror.”

“You are aiding terror!” Erdogan insisted in a speech in the Turkish capital of Ankara, referring to Germany. Turkey’s president said that Ankara expects nothing from Berlin, but stressed that Germany “will be remembered by history for harboring terror,” Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reports.

Erdogan went on to express “concern” about Germany “taking members of terrorist organizations such as the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and [DHKP-C Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front] under its protection.” 

The Turkish president warned that “terror is like a scorpion” and “will bite the one, who is carrying it,” concluding that it will eventually hit Germany “like a boomerang.” Erdogan also denounced recent “racist attacks against Turks in Germany,” while insisting it was “unacceptable” for Germany to give refuge to “terrorists.”

He also predicted that Germany “will now become a backyard of [the Fethullahist Terror Organization] FETO,” referring to an organization led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for organizing the coup attempt on July 15 that ultimately failed to oust Erdogan from power.

On Tuesday, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told journalists that it was not for him to judge if the Gulenist movement was political in nature or not. He also stressing that Berlin would not extradite suspects to Turkey if they were facing political charges, and only consider extraditions in cases where clear evidence of “classic criminal activity” was presented by Ankara, according to Reuters.

However, Erdogan’s furious outburst was triggered by critical remarks made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the most recent spate of arrests of journalists in Turkey, Hurriyet reported.

“For me and the entire government, it is highly alarming that freedom of the press and speech are being restricted again and again,” she said on Wednesday during a joint conference with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann.

“The latest example of this already very sad development is what happened with the editors and editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and we have very great doubts that this corresponds with the principles of the rule of law,” she said following the arrest of at least 13 Cumhuriyet employees and executives.

The German Chancellor also stressed that this issue would “play a central role” in talks about Turkey’s prospects for EU membership.

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim dismissed the latest round of criticism from EU countries by maintaining that European standards do not apply to Turkey, while promising that Ankara will not be intimidated by EU threats.

The arrest of Cumhuriyet’s employees for allegedly assisting the failed military coup marks a new wave of crackdowns on suspected Gulen supporters. At least 37,000 people have been arrested and thousands of civil servants have been suspended since July for allegedly having links to the movement led by the US-based cleric.

In the latest move, 15 media outlets were shut down and another 10,131 civil servants were dismissed over the weekend, Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.

Turkey and Germany have been constantly trading barbs in a blame game since the failed coup. In late August, Turkish minister of EU affairs denounced a statement by Germany’s European commissioner as “cultural racism,” because the German politician said that Turkey’s EU bid was “unrealistic” as long as Erdogan remained in power.

In mid-August, Turkey accused Germany of having a “distorted mentality” after a report from the German Interior Ministry was leaked to the press that accuses Ankara of breeding Islamist extremism.In early August, some German politicians compared Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown to Hitler’s rise to power.

The German media has also repeatedly mocked the Turkish president in various forms. In March, the NDR channel aired a satirical piece titled “Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan,” provoking a strong reaction from the Turkish government, which summoned the German ambassador and demanded that the video be deleted.

German comedian Jan Boehmermann later read a satirical poem on German television channel ZDF, prompting the Merkel’s government to put Bohmermann on trial under a rarely enforced law. On October 5, the charges against the comedian were dropped, as the court found that the satire was too exaggerated to be taken seriously.