Sunday 22 July 2018

German reporter freed from Turkish jail pending trial

Deniz Yucel was detained as part of a Turkish government clampdown on civil society after a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Deniz Yucel walks with his wife Dilek Mayaturk Yucel after being released (Can Erok/DHA-Depo/AP)
Deniz Yucel walks with his wife Dilek Mayaturk Yucel after being released (Can Erok/DHA-Depo/AP)

By Frank Jordans

A German reporter detained in Turkey for more than a year has been released from jail pending trial.

Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for German daily Die Welt, was detained as part of a Turkish government clampdown on civil society after a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The 44-year-old, who has German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested in Istanbul on February 14 last year on terrorism and propaganda charges, which he denies.

His case and that of five other German citizens still held in Turkey for what Germany considers political reasons badly soured relations between the two countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed his release, saying she was happy for Mr Yucel and his family, “who had to endure a very difficult year of separation”.

A picture tweeted by lawyer Veysal Ok showed Mr Yucel outside jail embracing his wife.

Mrs Merkel said the reporter’s release “shows that talks aren’t futile” and expressed cautious hope he would remain free.

But she noted that others, including several Germans, remain in Turkish custody.

“We know that there are other perhaps not so prominent cases of people that are in Turkish jails and we hope they’ll enjoy a quick legal process and the rule of law too.”

Mrs Merkel did not address the question of whether an agreement was reached with Turkey when she met the country’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, in Berlin on Thursday.

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Angela Merkel welcomes Binali Yildirim in Berlin (AP)

German officials rejected suggestions that Mr Yucel’s release might have come about as a result of an arms deal between Germany and Turkey.

“There can be no talk of any dirty deals or side agreements,” said Rainer Breul, a spokesman for Germany’s foreign ministry.

While German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel voiced hope that Mr Yucel would be able to leave Turkey soon, the conditions of his release were not immediately clear.

Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that a court ruled Mr Yucel should be set free pending a trial, after approving a prosecutor’s indictment seeking between four and 18 years in prison for “engaging in terrorist propaganda” and “inciting public hatred and enmity”.

Mathias Doepfner, the chairman of Die Welt’s publisher Axel Springer, said the company was “endlessly relieved that Deniz Yucel can finally be free after more than a year in detention”.

He added that the case underlined the importance of press freedom and the need to continually defend it.

Press Association

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