WASHINGTON: Senior US and German officials had a heated argument over the fate of a Turkish man convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell after he was deported to Turkey despite a US extradition request, the latest sign of mounting strain between the two allies under Donald Trump’s presidency.
The back and forth, which occurred Wednesday at a meeting between Deputy US Secretary of State John Sullivan and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Washington, was described by three people familiar with the event who didn’t want to be identified discussing private conversations.
The prisoner at the centre of the debate was Adem Yilmaz, who was convicted in 2010 of plotting to bomb American targets in Germany and sentenced to 11 years in prison. US officials had filed an extradition request for Yilmaz over the killing of two American service members, but a German court allowed him to be deported to Turkey this month instead.
A senior State Department official, who was among the attendees in the meeting, said he was “not satisfied” with the German minister’s response, and added that the episode will hurt law-enforcement cooperation between the trans-Atlantic allies.
The controversy is the latest conflict between the Trump administration and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. Merkel has emerged as a public defender of multilateral institutions and alliances which Trump has cast aspersion on and the American president has criticised Germany for not contributing more to NATO and for seeking to boost gas imports from Russia, among other things.
A particular concern for the US from this latest episode is the fate of two Iranians held in Germany over allegations they were involved in a Paris bomb plot. The US is worried that it still doesn’t have any assurances from Germany that the Iranians won’t be sent back to their country in defiance of the American request.
A German Embassy spokesman declined to comment, as did a State Department spokesman. A Department of Justice spokeswoman didn’t return an email seeking comment.
The three people said the US was particularly frustrated because the German court that allowed Yilmaz to be deported hadn’t been aware of a letter sent by the Department of Justice in November laying out the US case against Yilmaz and explaining why the US wanted him extradited.
One US official said German officials had also asked for more than the extradition treaty required, another source of irritation between the two countries. The official also said the US was “blindsided” because German officials gave them no warning that the deportation decision had been made and he was going to be sent back to Turkey. In the end, the official said, the US filed a “Red Notice” via Interpol to secure Yilmaz’s detention in Turkey, where he is now being held.