BERLIN (NYTIMES) - In the latest episode in the diplomatic skirmish between Germany and Turkey, police in Spain, acting on a request from Turkish authorities, have arrested a Turkish-German writer on vacation in Spain.
Although the writer, Dogan Akhanli, 60, was released from custody within 24 hours of his arrest on Saturday (Aug 19), he was ordered to remain in Spain pending a decision on Turkey's request for his extradition, which could take up to 40 days.
The grounds for extradition were murky, and Germany's foreign ministry said on Monday that it did not expect the request to be honoured. But the arrest of Akanhil, who has long had a stormy relationship with his native country and became a German citizen 16 years ago, triggered outrage in Berlin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called it "unacceptable", adding: "We cannot allow international organisations such as Interpol to be misused in this way."
Germans expressed outrage when Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inserted himself into German's national elections last Friday, calling on all Germans of Turkish descent not to vote for Dr Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union, its governing partner, the centre-left Social Democratic Party, and the left-leaning Greens party when they go to the polls on Sept 24.
Akhanli was arrested the following day, but he was released after Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who was in Spain following the terrorist attack in Barcelona, intervened on the writer's behalf.
In interviews with German media, Akhanli said he was in bed early Saturday morning when he responded to a knock on the door of his hotel room in Granada to find armed police officers standing there, "expecting to find a terrorist".
"They didn't storm into the room, perhaps because I opened the door in my underwear and my wife was still lying in bed," Akhanli told the German public broadcaster ARD.
The police asked for his identification, he said, then waited for him to get dressed, before handcuffing him and taking him to the police station.
Although he said he was treated well by Spanish police, the experience left him shaken.
"It is terrible because I thought that I was safe in Europe. I thought the Turkish arbitrariness and arrogance cannot reach Europe," Akhanli said. "They simply abuse international law, whatever it is good for. It has nothing to do with the rule of law."
Akhanli has a long history of run-ins with successive Turkish governments. Once a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, he was detained in Turkey after the military coup of 1980 and sentenced to six years jail in 1985.
He was released in 1988 but continued to suffer harassment. After Akhanli completed compulsory military service he left Turkey for Germany where he was granted political asylum in 1991.
In 1999, he published a novel, Kiyamet Gunu Yargiclari (Judges of Doomsday), which was set during the Armenian genocide, the mass killing of ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman government in 1915. The genocide is still a taboo subject in Turkey.
In 2001, Akhanli gave up his Turkish passport and became a German citizen.
In 2010, he was arrested in Istanbul, where he had flown to visit his father, who was dying. The charges against him dated to a 1989 armed robbery case. Akhanli spent four months in jail until he could provide witnesses who proved that testimony from prosecution witnesses had been false. His father died without seeing him and he left Turkey again.
Despite his acquittal in the armed robbery case, the Turkish Supreme Court issued a final verdict in the case and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2013. The verdict is final with no chance of appeal, so if he were extradited to Turkey, Akhanli could go straight to prison.
Speaking German at a news conference in Madrid on Monday, Akhanli said he hoped to be allowed to return to Germany, but admitted he could not suppress his fears. Still, he remained defiant, vowing that no matter what happened, "they will never silence me".
Spain also arrested another Turkish-born writer, Hamza Yalcin, on Aug 3. A citizen of Sweden for 33 years, Yalcin, too, was vacationing in Spain and was detained as he was preparing to board a flight at Barcelona's airport, El Prat. He remains in detention.
It is not immediately clear if the writers' arrests resulted from fresh warrants issued by Turkey, or represent Spain's readiness to act on long-standing Interpol red notices.
A red notice is technically not an Interpol arrest warrant but a request by an individual country. The system of red notices has been increasingly abused by some countries, in particular Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey, to try to reach critics and political opponents abroad, according to Sarah Clarke at PEN International, the worldwide association of writers.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and its branch in Spain, the Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information, have issued statements in support of Yalcin and urged the Spanish government not to comply with the extradition.
Yalcin is a chief columnist with the socialist news website, Odak. He and an Odak colleague face charges of "insulting the president" and "denigrating the military", stemming from an article published on the website, the statement said.
Yalcin was arrested in 1979 by Turkey's military government because of his ties to a Marxist-Leninist group and received two life sentences for "revolutionary activities".