Merkel condemns arrest of human rights activists in Turkey

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BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 07: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (not seen) attend a joint press conference following their meeting in Berlin, Germany on June 07, 2017. AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the arrest of six human rights activists including a German in Turkey and pledged to work for his release.

Six human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey Director İdil Eser and German human rights consultant Peter Steudtner, who were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada, were put in pre-trial detention by an İstanbul court on Tuesday.

In unscheduled remarks at a ceremony for athletes on Tuesday, Merkel said the case was another example of innocent people being “caught up in the wheels of the justice system.”

She said Steudtner’s arrest was absolutely unjustified.

“We declare our solidarity with him and all the others arrested. … The German government will do all it can, on all levels, to secure his release.”

The German foreign ministry in a statement also called on Turkey to release the six activists immediately and underlined the significance of organizations such as AI to contribute to “plurality, democracy and protection of human rights in Turkey.”

“Linking a fighter and spokesman for human rights and democracy like Peter Steudtner to supporters of terrorists is absurd,” the statement said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt during a press conference on July 8.

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