Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to seek the release of German activist Peter Steudtner, Der Spiegel reported on Thursday.
According to the report, Schröder visited Turkey one week after the Sept. 24 general elections in Germany, upon the request of Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and with the approval of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Schröder before his visit to Turkey.
Steudtner and seven other human rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey chief Idil Eser were released by an Istanbul court on Wednesday evening.
Gabriel confirmed that Schröder had acted as a mediator in Steudtner’s release, saying he was “very grateful” for Schröder’s efforts, Deutsche Welle reported.
Gabriel told news magazine Der Spiegel that the release was “the first sign of a thaw, as Turkey has fulfilled all its commitments [in the case of Steudtner].”
But he added: “Now we have to work on the release of the other detainees.”
Eleven German citizens remain in prison in Turkey, including four with Turkish-German citizenship.
According to Deutsche Welle, the co-leader of the Green party, Cem Özdemir, also warned against speaking of a normalization of ties with Turkey as long as German citizens were in detention there and called for their release,
He added that Germany had “not forgotten those who do not have a German passport and are also unlawfully in jail.”
On July 5 Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained İdil Eser from AI, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.
The pro-Erdoğan Star daily claimed on July 11 that the CIA and MI6 were behind the meeting.
Another pro-Erdoğan paper, Yeni Şafak, on July 23 claimed that the rights activists had ties to the German BND intelligence service.
During a press conference in Hamburg on July 8, President Erdoğan accused the detained human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and signaled that the detention of the rights defenders could turn into imprisonment.