Germany Warns Turkey’s Exiled Media of Apparent Hit List

WASHINGTON – Celal Baslangic was at his Cologne home on July 16 when two German police officers knocked on his door and warned the veteran Turkish journalist that his name was on an apparent “hit list” of those allegedly to be targeted for violence.

Rumors of such a list already were circulating among the exile community. But as police investigate the veracity of the list, attention has turned to whether Ankara has the ability to reach dissidents who have left the country to avoid persecution.  The police provided Baslangic with contact details for an officer overseeing an investigation into a list of about 50 outspoken critics of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, some of whom live in Germany.

Journalists named on the list and experts say nationalist groups with links to violent crimes operate in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and that exiles who fled persecution in Turkey no longer feel safe.

Baslangic, a veteran journalist with 47 years’ experience, left Turkey in early 2017 as authorities arrested dozens of reporters and others accused of supporting or promoting a failed attempted coup the year before.

The former Cumhuriyet and T24 journalist was charged with terrorist propaganda for taking part in a solidarity campaign with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem.

Baslangic told VOA he believes the apparent hit list is an attempt to intimidate journalists and media outlets like Arti TV, the Turkish news network he founded when he moved to Cologne.

“I do not think that this is only because of Erdogan. It is possible to view it as an effort of the coalition partners that will prevent Erdogan from getting closer to both the European Union and NATO,” Baslangic said.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a parliamentary alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The Turkish Embassy in Berlin did not return VOA’s emailed requests for comment.

Cologne police confirmed they have been aware of this apparent hit list since mid-July but declined to provide further information about the number of individuals and the identities of those on the list.

“Those affected are journalists, writers, and artists close to the Turkish opposition,” a spokesperson told VOA.

But Baslangic said he wants more transparency about the list.

“We want to know the source of this list so that we can take it seriously, or [know if] it’s just to intimidate us, so that we can tell the difference,” Baslangic said. “No one can distinguish it better than us, because we know the Turkish state, and we know what this state can do.”