Turkey sentences German taxi driver for spreading 'terrorism propaganda'

The 46-year-old, who was arrested a month ago, was found guilty of uploading photos of Kurdish rebels on social media. He's one of several Germans in detention in Turkey on similar charges.

German national Ilhami A., from the northern German city of Hamburg, was handed a jail sentence in Turkey on Friday after being found guilty of spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The 46-year-old appeared in court in the eastern city of Elazig where he received a sentence of three years and one-and-a-half months, according to German public broadcasters NDR, WDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The media reports said the sentence was put on hold until a final decision by a higher court. But Ilhami A. was ordered to remain in Turkey during the appeal process.

His conviction took place unusually fast, as suspects in Turkey are often in custody for months before being charged. 

Ilhami A. was arrested last month in the town of Saribasak,in a largely Kurdish region of Turkey, during a visit to his mother.

He was accused of publishing content on Facebook that praised several Kurdish politicians and thought leaders, including PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, while criticizing the Turkish government.

Posting in support of outlawed group

The public prosecutor's office said Ilhami A. also shared photos of PKK fighters, which amounted to "terrorist propaganda."

Read more: German journalist Mesale Tolu arrives home after Turkey lifts travel ban

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

The Böhmermann affair

March 31, 2016: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed charges against German comedian and satirist Jan Böhmermann over his "defamatory poem" about the Turkish leader. German prosecutors eventually dropped the charges on October 4, 2016, but the case sparked a diplomatic row between Berlin and Ankara.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

German lawmakers pass resolution to recognize 1915 Armenian Genocide

June 2, 2016: The resolution passed almost unanimously. In response, Turkey recalled its ambassador in Berlin and Germany's Turkish community held protests in several German cities. Turkey had repeatedly criticized the use of the term genocide to describe the Ottoman-era Armenian killings, arguing that the number of deaths had been inflated, and that Turkish Muslims also perished in the violence.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Tensions following failed coup in Turkey

July 15, 2016: A faction of the Turkish military tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but ultimately failed. Ankara accused Berlin of not taking a clear stand against the coup attempt or not doing anything about exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen's organization, who Erdogan blames for orchestrating the failed coup.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Germany criticizes post-coup purge

Immediately following the attempted coup, Turkish authorities purged the army and judiciary, detaining thousands of people. The purge expanded to include civil servants, university officials and teachers. German politicians criticize the detentions. Turkish diplomats, academics and military members fled the country and applied for asylum in Germany.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Kurdish rallies in Cologne

Erdogan's post-coup crackdown has also been condemned by Kurdish protesters at several mass demonstrations in the west German city of Cologne. Often the rallies have called for the release of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey considers to be a terror group. Ankara has accused Berlin of not doing enough to stop PKK activities.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Arrest of German citizens in Turkey

February 14, 2017: Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for the "Welt" newspaper, was taken into custody in Turkey. Other German nationals, including journalist Mesale Tolu and human rights activist Peter Steudtner were detained in Turkey for what Berlin dubbed "political reasons." Turkey accused them of supporting terrorist organizations. All three have since been released pending trial.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Germany bans Turkish referendum rallies

March 2017: A number of German localities blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies in their districts ahead of an April referendum in Turkey to enhance President Erdogan's powers. The Turkish leader then accused Germany of using "Nazi tactics" against Turkish citizens in Germany and visiting Turkish lawmakers. German leaders were not amused by the jibe, saying Erdogan had gone too far.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Spying allegations

March 30, 2017: Germany accused Turkey of spying on hundreds of suspected Gulen supporters as well as over 200 associations and schools linked to the Gulen movement in Germany. Turkish asylum-seekers have since accused officials working in Germany's immigration authority (BAMF) of passing on their information to media outlets with ties to the Turkish government.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Erdogan urges German-Turks not to vote for 'enemies of Turkey'

August 18, 2017: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed three of Germany's main political parties as "enemies of Turkey" and told Turks living in Germany not to vote for them in September's general election. He singled out Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), the Social Democrats (SPD), and the Greens. Merkel said Erdogan was "meddling" in Germany's election.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Merkel says Turkey should not become EU member

September 4, 2017: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during an election debate that she didn't think Turkey should become a member of the European Union and said she would speak with other EU leaders about ending Ankara's accession talks. In October, she backed a move to cut Turkey's pre-accession EU funds.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Turkey's military offensive in Afrin

January 20, 2018: The Turkish military and their Syrian rebel allies launched "Operation Olive Branch" against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. The move was criticized by German politicians and prompted large protests by Kurdish communities in Germany.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Journalist Deniz Yücel released from prison

February 16, 2018: Turkey ordered the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel after he'd been held for over a year without charge. According to Turkish state media, Yücel was released on bail from pre-trial detention. Prosecutors asked for an 18-year jail sentence for Yücel on charges of "terror propaganda" and incitement.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Özil quits

July 2018: German footballer Mesut Özil quit the national team following the fallout from his meeting with the Turkish president. Özil said he was being made a scapegoat for Germany's forgettable performance at the FIFA World Cup in Moscow because of his Turkish heritage. Erdogan praised Özil's decision and slammed the "racist" mistreatment of the footballer.

Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?

Travel ban lifted

August 2018: A Turkish court removed the travel ban on German journalist Mesale Tolu, who was arrested last year on terrorism-related charges. But the trial against Tolu, who has since returned to Germany, is set to continue. Her husband, Suat Corlu, who is facing similar charges, has been ordered to remain in Turkey.

The PKK has fought a near 35-year armed conflict against Turkey to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in the east and southeast of the country.

The group is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, the EU and the US.

Related Subjects

Ilhami A., who is a self-employed taxi driver, has denied the allegations and insists that the Facebook profile isn't his, according to the indictment. 

Six other Germans are currently in detention in Turkey for "political reasons," according to official figures.

They include Dennis E., who was also arrested last month and charged for expressing his support for the PKK.

Relations remain strained

Their jailing, and a wider crackdown on dissent by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has weakened relations between Ankara and Berlin.

Following the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, Ankara accused Germany of harboring several of the alleged perpetrators linked to US based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey holds responsible for an attempted coup.

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Özoguz: 'The imprisonments are just not acceptable'

During the subsequent state of emergency, several Germans were imprisoned, including the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel.

Yücel was released earlier this year, although he still remains indicted on similar "terror propaganda" charges.

Read more: Turkey's economic woes reveal complicated Germany ties

Earlier this week, it was revealed that a German national has been in a Turkish prison for more than a year as a result of the post-coup crackdown.

Nejat U. was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison by a Turkish court in July 2017, according to public broadcasters WDR, NDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, an Austrian national was detained on terrorism-related charges in Ankara.

mm/kws (AFP, dpa)

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