Middle East

Turkey frees German journalist Tolu but she cannot leave country: Berlin government

Turkey has released German journalist Mesale Tolu after nearly eight months in prison on condition that she not leave the country, German government officials said on Monday.

Turkey has charged Tolu with being a member of a terrorist organization and publishing terrorist propaganda following a failed military coup in July 2016. Her husband, Suat Corlu, a journalist who had been detained earlier, was released last month. Both continue to face charges in Turkey.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said it was too early to say what impact Tolu’s release would have on strained relations between the two NATO allies. He told a regular government news conference that Berlin would continue to press for the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel.

Germany has been pressing Ankara to release Yucel, Tolu and other journalists detained after the abortive coupa failed coup in July 2016, saying their detentions are unfounded and political.

“This isn’t just good news, it’s also a tremendous relief,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement. “This doesn’t end the case (against Tolu), but it is a first big step.”

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr expressed regret about conditions imposed on Tolu’s release, including a requirement to remain in Turkey and to check in with authorities.

Including Tolu, Ankara is preventing a total of 28 German citizens from leaving the country, she said.

Tolu was first detained on April 30.

German Green Party co-leader Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish descent, welcomed the news, but said it did little to change the ”miserable state of the rule of law in Turkey.

“I demand that the Turkish government release all political prisoners and immediately allow German citizens like Mesale Tolu to leave the country,” Ozdemir said in a statement.

Heike Haensel, a member of Germany’s far-left Left party who attended Tolu’s hearing in Istanbul, said on Twitter that Tolu was required to check in with Turkish authorities every Monday.

The decision to release Tolu came two weeks after German federal prosecutors dropped an investigation against a dozen Muslim clerics sent from Turkey who had been suspected of spying in Germany on behalf of the Turkish government.

Germany’s mainstream parties have been outspoken critics of Turkey’s security crackdown since the abortive military coup. Tens of thousands of Turks have been jailed since then, including around a dozen who hold German citizenship. Germany is home to some three million people of Turkish heritage.

Turkey has criticized Berlin for not handing over asylum seekers it accuses of involvement in the would-be coup.

Ankara has blamed U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen for masterminding the failed coup. Gulen denies any involvement.

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