First German convicted over Turkey coup bid: report

Turkey has jailed a German national on charges related to the July 2016 failed coup attempt for the first time, according to media reports. The man was convicted last year but it's only just become public now.

A German national has been in a Turkish prison for more than a year as a result of the post-coup crackdown, German media reported on Tuesday.

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

Read more: Opinion: German-Turkish relations no easy feat

The 55-year-old is the first confirmed German citizen to be convicted of terrorism for alleged ties to the movement run by US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish government blames the Gulen movement for the July 2016 failed coup bid.  

It is unclear why Nejat U.'s imprisonment has only now become public. The German Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the legality of the sentence but said its consulate in Izmir has been looking after the case.

According to the charges seen by the media outlets, Nejat was accused of belonging to a business association with links to the Gulen movement. In addition, he allegedly had an account in a bank tied to the Gulen movement and his children attended a Gulenist affiliated school.

Nejat U. denied any involvement in terrorism.

Read more: Turkey's Gulen movement on the rise in Germany

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The Gulen movement has tens of thousands of supporters around the globe and operates businesses, schools and media outlets. Most Gulen-affiliated institutions in Turkey have been shut down or confiscated in the wake of the coup bid. Tens of thousands of suspected Gulen supporters have also been imprisoned or expelled from their jobs.

Nejat U. reportedly came from Turkey to Germany to study and lived in the western city of Aachen for many years. His wife is a doctor and he has three children.

In 2000, he returned to Turkey and established a business in his hometown that he ran until being detained in April 2017. He reportedly is a German national and had given up Turkish citizenship.

According to relatives, he has a so-called "blue card" that former Turkish nationals can apply for. This gives them privileges in Turkey such as inheritance and a residence permit.

July 2007: Abdullah Gul becomes Turkey's first Islamist president
After years of free market reforms, Turkey's transition slowly begins to reverse. Islamist Abdullah Gul's candidacy as president in 2007 marks a clear shift away from secularist policies, and strains relations between the ruling AKP and the military. However, with broad support from both conservative Muslims and liberals, the AKP wins the parliamentary elections and Gul is elected president.
September 2010: Constitutional reforms take hold
Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tables a constitutional reform increasing parliamentary control of the judiciary and army, effectively allowing the government to pick judges and senior military officials. The amendment, which is combined with measures also aimed at protecting child rights and the strengthening of the right to appeal, passed by a wide margin in a public referendum.
May 2013: Dissent erupts in Gezi Park
Pent-up anger directed by young people at Erdogan, Gul and the Islamist-rooted AKP hits a boiling point in May 2013. The violent police breakup of a small sit-in aimed at protecting Istanbul's Gezi Park spurs one of the fiercest anti-government protests in years. Eleven people are killed and more than 8,000 injured, before the demonstrations eventually peter out a month later.
July 2015: Turkey relaunches crackdown against Kurds
A fragile ceasefire deal between the Turkish government and the Kurdish rebel PKK group breaks under the weight of tensions aggravated by the war in Syria. Military forces resume operations in the mostly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. In early 2016, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) — a breakaway PKK faction — claim responsibility for two bombings in Ankara, each killing 38 people.
July 2016: Military coup attempt falls short
A military coup attempt against the government shakes Turkey to its core and briefly turns the country into a war zone. Some 260 civilians die in overnight clashes with the army across five major cities. Erdogan, however, rallies supporters and the following morning rebel soldiers are ambushed by thousands of civilians on the Bosporus Bridge. The troops eventually drop their guns and surrender.
July 2016: President Erdogan enacts a state of emergency
In the aftermath of the failed coup, Erdogan announces a state of emergency, leading to arrests of tens of thousands of suspected coup sympathizers and political opponents. Among those detained are military and judiciary officials and elected representatives from the pro-Kurdish HDP party. The purge is later expanded to include civil servants, university officials and teachers.
2016: Crackdown on the press
As part of Erdogan's crackdown against supposed "terrorist sympathizers," Turkey becomes one of the world's leading jailers of journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. The government shuts down around 110 media outlets in the year following the coup and imprisons more than 100 journalists, including German-Turkish correspondent Deniz Yücel.
March 2017: AKP officials try to stoke support in Western Europe
With a referendum on expanding Erdogan's presidential powers set for April 2016, AKP officials look to galvanize support among Turks living in Europe, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands. However, the Netherlands forbids Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from landing in the country, while Germany opts to cancel two rallies. Erdogan accuses both countries of Nazi-style repression.
April 2017: Erdogan clinches referendum vote
Erdogan narrowly wins the referendum vote expanding his power. As a result, Turkey's parliamentary system is abolished in favor of a strong executive presidency. Erdogan is also allowed to remain in power potentially until 2029. However, international election monitors claim that opposition voices were muzzled and that media coverage was dominated by figures from the "yes" campaign.
June 2018: Election wins secure Erdogan's power
Erdogan secures a new five-year term and sweeping new executive powers after winning landmark elections on June 24. His AKP and their nationalist allies also win a majority in parliament. International observers criticize the vote, saying media coverage and emergency measures gave Erdogan and the AKP an "undue advantage" in the vote.

Alongside Nejat U., seven German nationals are known by WDR, NDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung to be detained in Turkey on political charges related to the coup attempt. Three of them possess only German citizenship. None have been convicted.

The detention of German nationals in Turkey has strained relations between Berlin and Ankara. A number of those imprisoned have since been released after the German government applied pressure on Turkish authorities.

The issue of detained German nationals is expected to be one of several areas of discussion when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes an official state visit in Germany at the end of September.

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Date 11.09.2018
Author Chase Winter