Erdoğan's visit provides opportunity for Germany to address human rights concerns - HRW director

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel should use the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s upcoming visit as an opportunity to raise numerous human rights concerns, including  plight of the many journalists, human rights defenders and politicians who are jailed in Turkey, wrote Hugh Williamson, director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Division.

While noting that the German government has come under criticism for the upcoming three-day visit of Turkey’s strongman, which is set to include a military guard and state banquet, Williamson stressed an improvement in German-Turkish relations and the release of journalists such as Ahmet Altan from prison should be made a prerequisite for the improvement in German-Turkish relations.

Altan, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, was charged with “using force and violence” to overthrow the government, and accused of having known in advance about the July 2016.

'’Human Rights Watch regards the case as entirely politically motivated and the charges without merit,’’ Williamson stressed, noting that Altan and other defendants in the same trial - such as veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak and Altan’s brother Mehmet Altan -  should be freed and their charges dropped.

Through Erdoğan’s visit, Williamson said, German authorities have an opportunity to convey a clear message that it is not only German nationals in prison who matter, but also Turkey’s own citizens who are arbitrarily detained.

Turkey is the world's leading jailer of journalists with over 170 editors, reporters and columnists behind bars, according to PEN International.