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Protesters support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Reuters

Turkey frees journalist Deniz Yucel pending trial for ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’

Turkish news agency Anadolu said a court has accepted an indictment seeking up to 18 years


German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who was detained in Turkey a year ago, has been indicted for alleged security offences but a court has decided to release him pending trial, state-run Turkish news agency Anadolu said on Friday.

Die Welt, the German newspaper for which he works, had reported earlier in the day that Yucel had been freed, citing his lawyer. A German government spokeswoman confirmed the news, which could ease some of the tensions between the Nato allies.

“I believe that this will lead to [Yucel] being able to leave the country,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in Munich. “I hope this will happen very soon.”

Anadolu said a Turkish court has accepted an indictment seeking up to 18 years in jail for Yucel on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “stirring enmity”, and opted to free him ahead of trial.

Yucel was jailed in February last year on suspicion of spreading propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting violence. He denies the accusations.

“Finally! Best news ever. Deniz Yucel is free”, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a tweet.

Government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said during a regular news conference on Friday that the release would be “an important first step” after massive diplomatic efforts.

Heart shaped balloons with the image of jailed German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, in Berlin. Photo: EPA

A foreign ministry spokesman said there were still contentious issues between Germany and Turkey, whose ties deteriorated after Ankara’s crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed military coup in 2016.

Yucel’s case has become the focus of particular attention for Germany.

The spokeswoman said that Berlin had not agreed to any “dirty deals or other arrangements” to secure the release.

News of Yucel’s release came as a Turkish court on Friday jailed three prominent journalists for life on charges of links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, state media said.

Veteran journalists and writers Nazli Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan were handed the life sentences at a trial in Istanbul over links to the outlawed group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, Anadolu said. A similar punishment was handed to three other suspects.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who met Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks in Berlin on Thursday, earlier this week had raised the prospect that Yucel could soon be freed.

Turkey says its crackdown since the coup attempt – with the arrest of some 50,000 people – is needed for security reasons. It has criticised 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.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse