A former advisor to then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who in 2014 had kicked a protestor on camera has started work as a commercial attaché at the Turkish Consulate General in Frankfurt, the Sözcü daily reported on Wednesday.
Yusuf Yerkel sparked public outrage in May 2014 when he in front of the cameras kicked the relative of one of the 301 victims of a mining disaster during a visit to Soma in Manisa province, where the accident took place. The man and others were protesting Erdoğan, whose policies they held responsible for the tragedy.
According to Sözcü, Yerkel, who doesn’t have a degree in business, started work on Feb. 28 and will receive a monthly salary of 6,000 euros during his assignment as a commercial attaché, in addition to having all his social security benefits, pension premiums and health benefits covered by Turkey.
Yerkel will manage trade from Hessen, Germany’s richest state, to Turkey, in addition to investments and customs procedures, Sözcü said, adding that he will also provide Turkish-based companies that are engaged in commercial activities in Hessen with state funding.
Sözcü also reported claims that Yerkel was sent to Germany to provide support to members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who want to invest in real estate in Frankfurt and its environs.
“It’s claimed that he [Yerkel] might particularly play a role in the transfer of a former consulate general building to a foundation or a person close to the AKP. The building is [located] in the most valuable part of Frankfurt, and its market value exceeds €10 million,” Sözcü said.
The former aide’s appointment had drawn reactions by politicians and activists in Germany and had also sparked criticism in Turkey, not only due to his treatment of the protestor in Soma but also because of his alleged lack of training to fulfill the responsibilities of a commercial attaché.
According to Sözcü, several Turkish and German nongovernmental organizations had stated that they would continue protesting the appointment of Yerkel as the commercial attaché.
Turkey’s AKP and its leader President Erdoğan are widely criticized for filling state posts with their cronies and eschewing merit-based assignments.
Yerkel has a bachelor’s degree from the politics and international relations department of a university in İstanbul, according to his biography.