Merkel calls on Turkey to release jailed German journalist Yücel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called on Turkey to release Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been jailed since Feb. saying that she does not have a bigger wish other than his release.

Referring to German citizens imprisoned in Turkey, Merkel said: “our demand is very clear: those people who are in prison should be freed.”

Turkey recently arrested 10 Germans including a human rights defender and journalists, whose imprisonment Merkel called “unjustified.”

The arrests have escalated tension between two NATO allies, causing a diplomatic spat between officials from Berlin and Ankara.

“We would like better relations, but that has something to do with the fulfillment of the principles of the rule of law,” she added, questioning Turkey’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights.

Yücel, a reporter for German daily Die Welt, who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to infamous Silivri Prison in İstanbul.

The prosecutor had accused Yücel of “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “inciting people to hatred and enmity.”

In April Erdoğan said the extradition of Turkish-German journalist Yücel to Germany will never take place as long as he is president.

Erdoğan has on many occasions accused Yücel of being a German agent and a representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“Deniz Yücel is still in prison because in my opinion Turkey has taken him hostage,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Director of Amnesty International (AI) Turkey İdil Eser, who has been jailed since her detention on July 5 together with nine other human rights activists including German Peter Steudtner also said they were being held hostage by Turkey to threaten Germany.

President Erdoğan is believed to be detaining German journalists and human rights defenders to force the deportation from Germany of Turkish asylum seekers, who Erdoğan accuses of having mounted a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey claims some key suspects in the perpetration of the failed coup in 2016 fled to Germany and is demanding that Berlin hand them over to the Turkish judiciary. German authorities have not responded to Ankara amid reports of torture in Turkish jails, especially in the case of coup suspects.

Erdoğan accused Germany of assisting terrorists by failing to respond to Turkey’s requests to hand over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 283 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 18, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 258 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled. (SCF with

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