German reporter freed from Turkish jail, pending trial
BERLIN (AP) — A German reporter detained in Turkey for more than a year was released from jail pending trial, even as six other journalists and newspaper employees were sentenced Friday to life imprisonment by a Turkish court.
Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for the German daily Die Welt, was detained as part of a Turkish government clampdown on civil society in the wake of a failed coup attempt in 2016.
The 44-year-old, who has both German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested in Istanbul on Feb. 14, 2017, on terrorism and propaganda charges that 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 Friday, saying she was happy for Yucel and his family “who had to endure a very difficult year of separation.”
A picture tweeted by lawyer Veysal Ok showed Yucel outside jail embracing his wife.
Germany’s foreign minister later told reporters that Yucel was on his way to an Istanbul airport and can “freely leave Turkey.”
Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the court appeared to have set no conditions on Yucel’s release, and insisted it didn’t result from any kind of deal between Berlin and Ankara.
“I can assure you there were no agreements, no quid pro quo and no — as some people call it — deal in this case,” Gabriel said.
Merkel, who met Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, said the reporter’s release “shows that talks aren’t futile.”
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,” she said.
Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that a court ruled Yucel should be set free pending a trial, after approving a prosecutor’s indictment seeking between four and 18 years in prison for the journalist 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.
Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency reported that a court in Istanbul sentenced six journalists and newspaper employees accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt to life prison terms Friday. They include Ahmet Altan, the former editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper, his brother, journalist and academic Mehmet Altan, and prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak.
The journalists were accused of links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the July 15, 2016, failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.
The defendants were charged with attempts against Turkey’s constitution and membership in a terror organization.
Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.