The High Cost of Heavy Petting Turkish Prosecutor Angered by German Pressure

With a trial expected to begin in earnest in one week, media coverage of a 17-year-old German youth held in a Turkish prison since April on charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old is hotting up. Increasingly, it's looking to be a case of "he said, she said."

Germany and Turkey are continuing to trade barbs over the fate of 17-year-old Marco Weiss, a German youth who has been held in a Turkish prison since April  over charges of sexually abusing an 13-year-old British girl at a Turkish holiday resort. The German government is pressuring Ankara to release the 17-year-old. In response, Turkish prosecutors have dismissed efforts by German officials to lobby the Turkish Foreign Ministry for Weiss' release as "tactless."

Marco Weiss has been in jail since mid-April in Antalya, an area popular with European tourists. He stands accused of sexually abusing Charlotte M., a 13-year-old British girl. Details remain sketchy and accounts from Charlotte and Marco differ, but the act in question appears to be heavy petting that Marco claims was consensual but Charlotte charges was forced. Weiss has denied charges that he acted against the girl's consent and claims she lied about her age, telling him she was 15.

Weiss' trial is expected to resume on Friday, July 6. If convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison, but Turkish officials have already stated that he may be able to complete some of his jail time back home in Germany.

Antalya's Senior State Prosecutor Osman Vuraloglu has criticized media reports about the efforts of German officials to intervene in the Weiss case, asking how German officials would react if the Turkish government made the same demands if a Turkish citizen were arrested in Germany under a similar suspicion. Turkey is, after all, a country that observes the rule of law, he said.

Hordes of Media

He said he sees the hordes of German media camera crews assembled in front of the prison where Weiss is being held under investigative arrest as an attempt to influence the state prosecutor's office. He also said he would impose countermeasures and ban media coverage.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the foreign policy spokesman for the conservative Christian Democrats in parliament, Eckard von Klaeden, warned against putting political pressure on Turkey. "Public pressure on prosecutors and judges will only create the impression that their independence is questioned," he told German news channel N24 on Thursday. Judges and prosecutors wouldn't be very amused by that in Germany or Turkey, he said.

Vural Öger, a German member of the European Parliament of Turkish origin, also argued that German politicians and media should be careful about interfering with or providing one-sided coverage of the investigation. "I don't only feel sorry for the boy and his family," Öger told N24. "I also feel for the girl and her family." He added that he felt the reports in the German media had been one-sided and created the impression that "the poor boy was the only victim."

He admonished Germans to listen to both sides of the story before judging Turkey. "Penal codes in Turkey are just the same as they are in Germany," he said. "Sex with minors can be punished with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison." Öger said he didn't believe that public statements from politicians would be of much help to the high-school student. He also called comments made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the issue "extremely counterproductive."

On Thursday, the chancellor said the German government was in contact with the Turkish government "at all levels" regarding the case. "But we need to proceed with caution and calm," she said, adding that the government would do all it could to help Weiss. A day earlier, Merkel said it was important to get the boy back to Germany as quickly as possible. Still, warned Öger, pressure on the Turkish justice system could only serve to increase the risk that judges would form opinions early in the case.

The mother of alleged victim Charlotte M., who filed charges against Weiss in April, has said she does not want to make any public statements about the case. "We are very sad," Heather M. told the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, without adding any additional details.

A representative of the travel company Thomas Cook who had traveled with the family to Antalya, said the family was in a state of shock over what had happened to their daughter, and that they were afraid to even go to their front door because of all the German media coverage. The family claims that Charlotte M. is deeply traumatized and is still undergoing psychological treatment today.

Germany's mass-circulation Bild tabloid is reporting that the German TV stations N24 and Pro 7 have broadcast footage of the alleged victim and her sister walking to school.

A spokesman has said Charlotte's mother plans to use every legal means available to her to seek Marco Weiss' conviction. The family also told the German news agency DPA that it had faith in the Turkish justice system and saw no reason to establish any contact with Weiss' family in Germany. The family also said it has sought police protection to shield their daughter from the media as she makes her way to school.

dsl/AFP/AP/dpa