Turkey to Free Held German Reporter

Turkey to Free Held German Reporter

BERLIN (AP) -- A German journalist detained in Turkey for a year is being released from jail pending trial, German officials and his lawyer said Friday.

But Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for German daily Die Welt, could still face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

"Finally, a decision has been made to free my client Deniz Yucel," his lawyer Veysal Ok, said on Twitter. Germany's foreign minister also welcomed the decision. "I expressly thank the Turkish government for its support in accelerating the legal proceedings," Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement.

Yucel, who has both German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested in Istanbul on Feb. 14, 2017, on terrorism and propaganda charges that he denies. His high-profile case and that of six other German citizens held in Turkey for what Germany considers political reasons have badly soured relations between the two countries.

Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu reported that a court ruled Yucel should be set free pending a trial, after approving a prosecutor's indictment seeking up to 18 years in prison for the journalist. Private Dogan news agency reported prosecutors were charging Yucel with "engaging in terrorist propaganda" and "inciting public hatred and enmity," seeking a minimum of four years.

Gabriel said he has met twice with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the past year. The issue also came up at a meeting Thursday between Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yildirim said he hoped a court hearing for the 44-year-old would "take place in a short period of time."

Merkel's spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, declined to say whether an agreement was struck during Yildirim's visit to Berlin. "This is a first, important step that we have all worked on for a long time," she said.

German officials rejected the notion that Yucel's released 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," Rainer Breul, a spokesman for Germany's foreign ministry, told reporters in Berlin.

(KA)