Even as the European Union has wavered on whether to let Turkey into its exclusive grouping, Ankara has flexed its muscles within the bloc. It has done so by using a shared tool and resource to fight crime: Interpol.
Last Saturday, Spanish authorities arrested author Dogan Akhanli after Turkey issued an Interpol arrest warrant — a so-called "red notice" — for the writer, a German citizen of Turkish origin. Ankara has not publicly stated its motive for the arrest but Akhanli, a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has previously infuriated officials for his work on the Armenian genocide, a massacre that Turkey has sought to downplay.
Just weeks before Akhanli's arrest, Ankara had issued another "red notice" to Interpol, again in Spain, for Hamza Yalcin, a 59-year-old Swedish-Turkish journalist. Both writers are now being held in Spain, as the courts there decide whether they should grant Turkey's request for extradition.
Since the failed coup attempt on July 15 last year, Turkey has cracked down on officials, teachers, journalists and virtually anyone suspected of dissent in the country. But now it's also reaching far beyond its borders, emboldened by its status as a crucial player in the ongoing fight against terror group ISIS and amid an unprecedented migration crisis. In addition to the international Interpol warrants, Erdogan has been urging voters to boycott Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, among other groups, in upcoming elections in Germany, as video footage released by Turkish media outlet Cumhuriyet shows. "All of these [parties] are Turkey's enemy," he declared in the clip.
A condemnation with no action may reflect an implicit tolerance for his remarks.
His statements quickly drew Germany's ire. "We will not be dictated here by anyone, including President Erdogan," retorted Merkel, according to a report published in the German newspaper Die Welt. "We refuse to tolerate any kind of interference in the forming of [our] opinions."
Is her response enough? A condemnation with no action may reflect an implicit tolerance for his remarks. If Europe won't threaten Erdogan with sanctions and punitive measures, the Turkish president certainly won't stop using international organizations for his global witch hunt.
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