Istanbul court conditionally releases German journalist Tolu

Istanbul court conditionally releases German journalist Tolu

ISTANBUL - Reuters
Istanbul court conditionally releases German journalist Tolu

A Turkish court on Dec. 18 ordered the release of German journalist Meşale Tolu and five of her co-defendants from prison pending the outcome of their trial on terror-related charges.

Tolu was freed by a court in Istanbul freed but was barred from traveling abroad. She must also report to authorities at regular intervals.

The 33-year-old German citizen with Turkish roots is accused of engaging in terrorist propaganda and being a member of a banned left-wing group, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). Tolu, who faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted, has denied the accusations.

She was on trial at a courthouse in Istanbul together with 17 defendants. Tolu and five others were in pre-trial detention until the decision for their release. All defendants have now been freed pending a verdict.

Before her arrest in May, Tolu worked as a translator and journalist for the Turkish Etkin News agency (ETHA). Turkish prosecutors considered her attendance at the funerals of several members of the outlawed group as evidence of her membership in the outlawed group.

She was one of nine German or German-Turkish citizens arrested in Turkey.

Her case is among issues that have soured relations between Turkey and Germany in recent months.

“We take note of this news with joy and relief,” German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told reporters in Berlin.

She added that more than two dozen German citizens are currently barred from leaving Turkey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said “if confirmed, this is really good news” that might result in the improvement of German-Turkish relations, which have been strained in part due to the ongoing legal cases.

“We see this as a very positive step,” he said.

“This is not just good news, it is a great relief,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement Dec. 18.

“I believe all of us in Germany—and I personally too—are happy about the court’s decision for Meşale Tolu,” said Gabriel.

“This does not end legal proceedings but it is the first big step toward that,” he said.

Scores of journalists have been jailed in Turkey on terror-related charges as part of a wider government crackdown launched in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist for German newspaper Die Welt was arrested on Feb. 14 and remains in prison. Turkish authorities accuse him of disseminating terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred, as well as espionage. Yücel denies the allegations.