A Turkish court has ordered the release of 49-year-old Yılmaz S., who had worked for the German Embassy in Ankara and was arrested in September on espionage charges, Deutsche Welle English service reported.
The court did, however, impose a travel ban on the lawyer and set a hearing date of April 22.
Turkish prosecutors accused the lawyer of engaging in espionage in his role as a lawyer cooperating in asylum cases with the German Embassy in Ankara. Among the charges in his indictment, Yılmaz was accused of illegally accessing data from Turkey’s National Judiciary Informatics System. The platform, which is operated by the Justice Ministry, allows registered users to access information on ongoing criminal proceedings. This allowed German authorities, for instance, to see whether individuals seeking asylum may in fact face criminal charges in Turkey.
Cooperating lawyers such as Yılmaz provided support for Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) by investigating asylum applications in the countries where they are filed. The approach allowed BAMF officials to ascertain the veracity of applications and whether political asylum was warranted.
Turkish prosecutors accused Yılmaz of illegally procuring classified information for purposes of espionage by relaying his findings to the German Embassy, as well as illegally procuring and disseminating personal information. The charges carry a potential maximum sentence of 21 years in prison. Furthermore, Yılmaz was accused of having bribed a Justice Ministry employee to gain access to classified information.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry, which has paused all work with cooperating lawyers since Yılmaz was arrested in September, said he was engaged in “customary” activities.
According to Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Turkish authorities seized sensitive documents pertaining to 83 asylum applicants in the initial raid on Yilmaz’s office. The BKA reported that family members were also named in the documents.