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Germany says it will not back down on demand that Turkey free journalist

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany again demanded that Turkey release jailed German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth has told Yucel’s employer, Die Welt newspaper.

A protester demands the release of jailed Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel in Hamburg, Germany March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

“We have repeatedly made our demands clear to the Turks, and we will not back down,” Roth told the newspaper. “We expect the immediate release of Yucel from pretrial detention and a process that follows the rule of law.”

Roth, who met with Yucel’s wife and one of his attorneys in Istanbul on Tuesday, said it remained unclear of what crime Yucel had been accused.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Yucel had asked for improved conditions during a visit with German ambassador Martin Erdmann in Turkey on Tuesday.

“I am relieved that Deniz Yucel says he is in good shape,” Gabriel said. “But that does not change our demand that we want to see him released and that he and his colleagues receive a speedy and fair process.”

Turkish authorities arrested Yucel, who holds both German and Turkish citizenship, in February on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting public violence. Yucel denies the charges.

Turkish officials have rejected Germany’s demands for Yucel’s release and say his case will be decided by the courts. No timetable for the case has been released.

Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, spoke with Yucel for over an hour on Tuesday, according to a foreign ministry source.

“The support from Germany - readings, concerts and car processions - are doing him good. He knows he is not so alone and that he has not been forgotten,” said the source.

Ties between Germany and Turkey have been strained for over a year over a range of issues, including the Yucel case, Ankara’s anger over a German parliamentary resolution calling the murder of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and Germany’s statements criticising mass arrests after the failed July 15 coup in Turkey.

Germany’s cabinet last week backed plans to withdraw its troops from Incirlik air base in southern Turkey following Ankara’s refusal to allow German lawmakers access to the base.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Angus MacSwan