Turkish court orders release of German journalist

A Turkish court has ordered the release of German journalist and translator Mesale Tolu, according to Germany's Forei...

Posted: Dec 18, 2017 6:02 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2017 6:02 PM

A Turkish court has ordered the release of German journalist and translator Mesale Tolu, according to Germany's Foreign Ministry.

Tolu, who was detained seven months ago, will be released under judicial control, ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said Monday.

"Although Tolu is not allowed to leave Turkey, (this) is a tremendous relief," she said.

Tolu was accused of being a member of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party -- labeled in her indictment as an "armed terror organization" -- and with spreading "terrorist propaganda."

Human-rights organizations have described the charges as unfounded and part of a crackdown on free speech.

Tolu was facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement: "This is not only good news, but also a tremendous relief. I believe that all of us in Germany, including me, are pleased with the Mesale Tolu decision. This is not the end of the process, but a big first step has been taken."

'Worst jailer' of journalists

Turkey was named the "world's worst jailer" of journalists for the second year running in a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Seventy-three journalists are behind bars in the country, compared to 81 in 2016.

Following the release of Tolu, one German journalist -- Deniz Y-cel -- remains in jail in Turkey on political charges.

"We are following closely the proceedings against all Germans who are detained or charged for political reasons in Turkey," said Gabriel on Monday. "More Germans, such as Deniz Y-cel, remain in Turkish custody. We continue to offer our support."

Y-cel, a Turkish-German journalist for German newspaper "Die Welt," was arrested in February and held in solitary confinement for at least five months. He is accused of spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that the Turkish government has branded a terrorist organization.

Soon after the arrest, German-Turkish relations began to deteriorate rapidly, with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likening the German government to that of Adolf Hitler and calling for Turks in Germany to reject the country's biggest parties in September's federal election.

German Chancellor Merkel responded to Turkey's stance with a call to pause negotiations for Turkey's accession to the European Union.

Relations have since begun to thaw, aided in October by the release on bail of human-rights trainer Peter Steudtner, who was arrested in Turkey in July.

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