February 14, 2018 / 11:24 AM / a year ago

Before Merkel meeting, Turkish PM talks of release of journalist

ANKARA/BERLIN (Reuters) - Turkey’s prime minister raised the prospect on Wednesday that a German-Turkish journalist could soon be freed from a jail, something that would remove what Berlin considers a major impediment to normalized relations with Ankara.

A protester carries a placard during a demonstration to support German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in Floersheim near Frankfurt, Germany, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Deniz Yucel, a reporter for German daily Die Welt, was jailed a year ago on suspicion of spreading propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting violence. He denies the accusations and no indictment has been made.

“I hope that he will be freed soon. I think that there will be a development soon,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told German broadcaster ARD in an interview to be aired later on Wednesday.

He added, however, it was not up to him, but a court of law.

“At least he will appear before a court and every hearing is a chance to be freed,” Yildirim said, according to extracts of the interview. He is expected to discuss the case with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday.

While relations with Turkey have deteriorated sharply since Ankara’s crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed coup in 2016, Yucel’s case has become the focus of particular attention for Germany.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said late on Tuesday: “A year in prison for Deniz Yucel is still one of the biggest obstacles in bilateral relations between Germany and Turkey. We continue to push for swift legal proceedings.

“From our point of view, the only goal is the release of Deniz Yucel,” he said, adding Germany was also working on behalf of other Germans in jail in Turkey.

Turkey says its security crackdown since the coup attempt – with the arrest of some 50,000 people - is needed for security reasons. It has criticized Germany for not handing over asylum seekers it accuses of involvement in the failed coup.

In January, Turkey urged Germany, its biggest trading partner and NATO ally, to mend fences and they have since resumed bilateral government consultations that were suspended after Yucel’s arrest..

German Greens politician Claudia Roth responded skeptically to Yildirim’s comments, saying he was probably trying to create a good climate for talks with Merkel: “But we should not fall for this. There is not reason to talk of an improvement.”

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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