The Turkish Government arrested and detained a member of the German Parliament, or Bundestag, German media has reported.
Gökay Akbulut, who is of Kurdish origin and a member of the hard-Left Die Linke party, was arrested at Turkey’s Antalya airport while en route to visit her family. She was detained for several hours on a charge of spreading “terrorist propaganda”.
Posting on X (formerly Twitter), Akbulut said she only found out the Turkish Government had issued a warrant for her arrest when she arrived at the airport on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast. She was released following the intervention of the German foreign office, whom she publicly thanked.
Erst in der Türkei am Flughafen habe ich erfahren, dass ein Haftbefehl der Staatsanwaltschaft Kayseri gegen mich vorliegt. Bevor ich dazu Aussagen musste, wurde die Akte innerhalb von wenigen Stunden gelöscht. Ich danke dem Auswärtigen Amt für ihren schnellen Einsatz! Der Vorfall…
— Gökay Akbulut MdB (@AkbulutGokay) August 12, 2023
Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, officials said that after being informed about the arrest, the German Government intervened “at a high level, forcefully and through various channels” to obtain Akbulut’s immediate release.
The sources also claimed that the Turkish justice minister Yılmaz Tunç had also been involved in the talks to secure her freedom.
Akbulun said she was held over her 2019 social media posts in support of the Kurdish nationalists, specifically the Kurdistan’s Worker’s Party or PKK.
The issue of Kurdish nationalists and guerrillas is a thorny one for relations between Europe and Turkey at the moment.
For many Kurdish people and many in Europe, PKK members are regarded as freedom fighters struggling for the rights and independence of Turkey’s significant Kurdish population. The Turkish Government sees them as an extreme-left, separatist terrorist organisation responsible for murdering civilians.
Many agree with the terrorist designation of the PKK, including the European Union and the US, both of which officially list it as a terror group.
Many others dispute that description.
The issue became a bone of contention between Sweden and Turkey, as Turkey has long refused to back Sweden’s admittance to NATO on the grounds that it regarded Stockholm as too soft on Kurdish nationalists active in the Nordic nation.
Akbulut, in her role in the Bundestag, has been an outspoken advocate for Germany lifting its own ban on the PKK.
Elected in the 2017 German general election, Akbulut had originally been in contact with members of Die Linke during her youth, through frequent participation in many pro-Kurdish solidarity demonstrations.
Her arrest has also raised concerns about what many see as creeping authoritarianism in Turkey.
Following a failed coup attempt in 2016, Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan began a purge of numerous permanent state officials, alleging their involvement with the plotters.
Analysts have said that was in fact a power-grab by Erdoğan and that the country’s judicial system is now under the thumb of him and his religiously Conservative Justice and Development Party.
Akbulut claimed that the details of her arrest illustrate just such viewpoints, although she claimed that files relating to her detention were deleted within hours, before she had to testify before the Turkish authorities.
“The incident has once again shown that there is no separation of powers in Turkey” Akbulun wrote.
She appeared undeterred in positing her pro-Kurdish beliefs, saying: “Don’t worry: I won’t be intimidated by the arrest warrant.”