Erdoğan says Germany home to thousands of terrorists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Germany is home to thousands of terrorists including members of a group that carried out a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

In a news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday, Erdoğan said he expected Germany to be more effective in combatting threats posed to Turkey’s security.

Erdoğan said the terrorists included thousands of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who were spread out into cells across the country, and hundreds of persons belonging to the Fethullah Gulen movement, which Turkey says masterminded the coup.

Erdoğan is meeting with Merkel and other German leaders at a critical juncture for Turkey. The country is suffering from its worst economic downturn since the global financial crisis a decade ago and Erdoğan is seeking financial and political support from Merkel to limit its effects. Erdoğan also wants to negotiate an updated customs union with the bloc. Talks are frozen because of the country’s human rights record.

Erdoğan said he had no right to criticize the German judicial system, just as German officials had no right to criticize Turkey’s. Turkish police and prosecutors have imprisoned tens of thousands of people since the coup attempt on terrorism charges, including army officers, bureaucrats, teachers and intellectuals. About 175 journalists are also behind bars. Many have yet to face trial.

Merkel said Germany wanted to cooperate more closely with Turkey on terrorism issues. The two countries’ interior ministers would work on strengthening the process, she said.

More than a dozen German citizens are among those being held in Turkish jails on terrorism charges related to the coup attempt. Merkel said Germany wanted their cases to be resolved as quickly as possible, adding that she had brought up human rights with Erdoğan during their meetings.

Erdoğan said he and Merkel would discuss economic relations at a separate meeting on Saturday. Germany is Turkey’s biggest export market and about 6,500 German companies including energy company E.ON, pharmaceutical firms and utility EWE are active in Turkey.

Turkish journalist Ertugrul Yigit who was kicked out of the press conference for wearing "Freedom for Journalists in Turkey" said "I did not do anything."