Following the search of the homes of two Turkish journalists near Frankfurt, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara has summoned the German ambassador. In a statement on Wednesday, Turkey's Foreign Ministry condemned the arrest of two journalists from the Frankfurt bureau of the newspaper Sabah, calling the action an "act of harassment and intimidation of the Turkish press."
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The public prosecutor's office in Darmstadt and the police headquarters in southern Hesse announced a little later that the private homes of two journalists in Mörfelden-Walldorf had been searched "on suspicion of endangering the dissemination of personal data". During the operation on Wednesday morning, electronic storage media were confiscated, among other things. The two men, 46 and 51 years old, were released after the search.
The journalists concerned, Ismail Erel and Cemil Albay, work for the pro-government Turkish daily Sabah. Employees of the newspaper told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday that the journalists had been arrested after two members of the movement of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen reported them. Ankara accuses the Gülen movement, among others, of being behind the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
German security circles have reported that Sabah has published the names and addresses of exile journalists critical of the government last year. Journalists in Germany and Sweden, among others, were affected. They were presumably spied on by the Turkish secret service, according to the journalists themselves who live abroad. This is because their addresses were provided with an information block. Some of them moved several times to be harder to find.
In one case, it was Abdullah Bozkurt, the former editor-in-chief of the pro-Gülen newspaper Today's Zaman. Bozkurt was then visited at his new home address in Sweden and seriously injured. In another report of the "Sabah" the exiled journalist Cevheri Güven was named. He was called a "terrorist", and his address in Hesse was also published and depicted on the front page of the newspaper. Güven is considered one of Erdogan's fiercest critics. Both cases later became public.
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According to reports, however, there are a number of other journalists who have come into the focus of the Turkish government. The investigators are now hoping for further insights through the evaluation of the computers and mobile phones that were seized in the homes and offices of the "Sabah" journalists.
The incident takes place in the middle of the election campaign for the second round of the presidential election in Turkey on May 28. In the first round on Sunday, neither Erdogan nor his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu received more than 50 percent of the vote. The election was criticized by observers as unfair, partly because the media is in the hands of the government. The Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized Germany for "lecturing the whole world about freedom of the press and freedom of expression." The procedure now shows his "double standards".