Repression without borders 2: Second writer with Turkish roots arrested in Spain

by Sophie Albers Ben Chamo

With writer Dogan Akhanli a second critic of Turkey's government has been arrested in Spain - at Turkey's request. But unlike journalist Hamza Yalçin, Akhanli has been granted conditional release.

Dogan Akhanli Second arrest in Spain: Dogan Akhanli

The Spanish authorities have again arrested a writer with Turkish roots living in exile in Europe, on the basis of a so-called Red Notice issued to Interpol. After Hamza Yalçin, a journalist with both Swedish and Turkish passports, was arrested at the airport in Barcelona last week, on Saturday heavily-armed policemen detained author Doğan Akhanli at his holiday hotel in Granada. Turkey demands the extradition of the two men, who they call “terrorist supporters”.

Akhanli, 60, who has written about human rights in Turkey as well as the Armenian genocide, asked for asylum in Germany in 1991, and has been living in Cologne ever since. Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Turkey over his case, as did Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

On Sunday Akhanli was released on condition that he stays in Madrid, said his lawyer Ilias Uyar. Now they are waiting for the Spanish authorities’ decision about the extradition request from Turkey. “Spain shouldn’t act as an accomplice to Erdogan’s purge”, says ECPMF member PDLI (Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información). The Spanish media freedom NGO was swift to offer help in Yalcin’s and Akhanli’s cases. Just last week it presented a exhaustive report documenting the situation in Turkey to the Attorney General's Office, recalling the state of emergency and the suspension of human rights since the attempted coup in summer 2016. The PDLI is also in constant contact with the lawyers.

"We are very concerned about Erdoğan's capacity for repression extending beyond Turkey's borders", it says in a PDLI statement. "Since the arrest of Hamza Yalçin we have been pointing out that the charges have no credibility and that the persecution is based on their work as journalists or writers, taking into account the constant violation of press freedom that occurs in Turkey and that are documented by international organisations."

German Chancellor Merkel has already welcomed Akhanli's release. She also warned Turkey against misusing Interpol to go after its critics.

Meanwhile Yalcin is still in jail. 


In March, Akhanli wrote a letter to German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who’s in Turkish jail since February 2017. You can read it here (in German)