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German Lawmaker, Michelle Müntefering, Accused of Links with Anti-Erdogan Gulen Movement

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

April 3, 2017 

German Lawmaker, Michelle Müntefering  

In a new low point in Bonn-Istanbul relations, Turkey has linked  Michelle Müntefering, a German lawmaker for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), with the supporters of self-exiled Turkish cleric Gehullah Gulen accused of master-minding the abortive coup against President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. 

Müntefering was reportedly told by the Federal Criminal Police Office that her name appeared on a list of alleged Gulen supporters handed to German authorities by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), according to the German news agency DPA. 

The SPD caucus leader, Thomas Oppermann, said it was "absolutely unacceptable" that Müntefering was a potential spying target and called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to issue a strong response. 

"Erdogan is going way beyond what we could ever accept," Oppermann said. "He does not appear to have any interest in a partnership with Germany anymore." 

The German-Turkey rift deepened  in early March when Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was barred from landing in the Netherlands to attend a rally of Turkish immigrants. About 400,000 people with ties to Turkey live in the Netherlands.

German Chanc Merkel pledged her "full support and solidarity" to the Dutch, saying the Nazi gibes were "completely unacceptable".

President Erdogan responded angrily. "Shame on you!" he exclaimed during an interview with A Haber television. He renewed accusations that Germany supported "terrorists" battling Turkey and that it backed the "no" campaign in the Turkish referendum, arguing that Berlin did not want to see a strong Turkey.

"Some of the European Union countries - let's not put all of them in the same sack - unfortunately cannot stomach Turkey's rise," he said. "Sadly, Germany tops the list. Germany supports terror in a cruel way."He advised Turks living in Europe not to vote for parties that he described as "enemies of Turkey."

In Germany, there are 1.5 million people with Turkish citizenship. Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, has said that the German government had approved voting by the estimated 1.4 million Turks living in Germany who are eligible to cast ballots in the April 16 referendum on introducing presidential form of goverment.

The Turkish government recently accused Germany of hypocrisy after it allowed tens of thousands of Turkish Kurds to hold a protest in the German city of Frankfurt against President Erdogan.

Around 30,000 Kurds demonstrated in Frankfurt on March 18 against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and an April referendum that would give him sweeping new powers.

Protesters chanted "Erdogan terrorist" and "freedom for Ocalan", referring to Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with many waving flags featuring Ocalan's face.

As the EU-Turkey rift widens, President Erdoğan has taunted “Christian Europe” while campaigning in Sakarya, condemning the European Court of Justice’s ruling that allows companies to ban staff wearing “visible religious symbols” such as head scarves. “Where is the liberty of religion?” he demanded. “They have commenced a struggle between the cross and crescent … I am saying this clearly: Europe is heading towards the days just before the second world war.”

The Turkish President also mocked Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who won recently general election, seeing off a challenge from the far-right Islamophobe, Geert Wilders. “Oh Rutte! You may have been first in the elections, but you have lost a friend like Turkey,” Erdoğan said. “Give it up. You have lost.”

At the same time Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu  said Europe was entering an era of religious warfare. “Now the election is over in the Netherlands … when you look at the many parties you see there is no difference between the social democrats and fascist [Geert] Wilders. All have the same mentality … Where are you taking Europe? You have begun to collapse, Europe … Holy wars will soon begin in Europe,” he said.

About the current EU-Turkey rift, Simon Tisdall of the Guardian argues: "For years, the Europeans condescended to or ignored Ankara in the complacent belief that Turkey, a developing country and NATO member with a secular, western outlook, needed the EU more than the other way around. Now the tables are turned. Despite a recent slump,  Turkey is growing fast, economically and demographically. 

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)


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