Erdogan says German journalist held in Turkey was agent and PKK member

Protestors demonstrate, calling for the freedom of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, in the streets of Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan responded to Berlin’s criticism of Turkey’s arrest of a German journalist by saying on Friday Deniz Yucel was a “German agent” and a member of a militant Kurdish armed group.

“It isn’t because a correspondent of Die Welt was arrested,” Erdogan told an awards ceremony in Istanbul.

“It is because this person hid in the German embassy as a member of the PKK and a German agent for one month. When we told them to hand him over to be tried, they refused.”

A source in the German foreign ministry on Friday evening described as “absurd” the suggestion that Yucel, a German-Turkish dual national, was an “agent”.

Erdogan said he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Your terrorists are requested by us, and you say justice is impartial and independent. We currently trust our impartial and independent judiciary. Give him up so he can be tried.

“They first didn’t hand him over, but later, somehow, they did. The judiciary did what was necessary and arrested him.”

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; editing by Andrew Roche