Merkel calls on Turkey to release jailed German journalist Yücel

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she adresses the press during her traditional annual summer press conference in Berlin on August 29, 2017, less than a month before the general election where she runs for a fourth term. / AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called on Turkey to release Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been jailed since February, saying that she does not have a greater wish than his release.

Referring to German citizens imprisoned in Turkey, Merkel said: “Our demand is very clear: Those people who are in prison should be freed.”

Turkey recently arrested 10 Germans including a human rights defender and several journalists, whose imprisonment Merkel called “unjustified.”

The arrests have escalated tension between the two NATO allies, causing a diplomatic spat between officials from Berlin and Ankara.

“We would like better relations, but that has something to do with the fulfillment of the principles of the rule of law,” she added, questioning Turkey’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights.

Yücel, a reporter for German daily Die Welt, who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul.

The prosecutor had accused Yücel of “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “inciting people to hatred and enmity.”

In April Erdoğan said the extradition of Turkish-German journalist Yücel to Germany will never take place as long as he is president.

Erdoğan has on many occasions accused Yücel of being a German agent and a representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“Deniz Yücel is still in prison because in my opinion Turkey has taken him hostage,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently said.

Director of Amnesty International (AI) Turkey Idil Eser, who has been jailed since her detention on July 5 together with nine other human rights activists including German national Peter Steudtner, also said they were being held hostage by Turkey to threaten Germany.

President Erdoğan is believed to be detaining German journalists and human rights defenders to force the deportation from Germany of Turkish asylum seekers, who Erdoğan accuses of having mounted a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey claims some key suspects in the perpetration of the failed coup in 2016 fled to Germany and is demanding that Berlin hand them over to the Turkish judiciary. German authorities have not responded to Ankara amid reports of torture in Turkish jails, especially in the case of coup suspects.

Erdoğan accused Germany of assisting terrorists by failing to respond to Turkey’s requests to hand over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities.

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