Turkish court releases 6 including German journalist Meşale Tolu

Meşale Tolu.

An İstanbul court on Monday released German journalist Meşale Tolu along with five others on judicial probation, Cumhuriyet reported.

Tolu, who was detained in April 2017, is one of 18 people accused of membership in the left-wing Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) extremist group and spreading terrorist propaganda. They face up to 20 years in jail.

Tolu’s journalist husband, Suat Çorlu, was also detained, and their 3-year-old son had been living with his mother in jail for the last eight months. The next hearing is scheduled for April 26. In an October hearing, the court ordered that Tolu and five other defendants remain in jail pending trial while releasing eight others.

Since Meşale Tolu released with the condition of judicial probation she does not leave the country. However, following the announcement of her conditional release, German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr described it as a “great thing.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the news with reservations, given curbs on Tolu’s ability to travel. “Regarding Ms Tolu, it is good news given that she will be freed, but not completely so, because she can’t leave the country and the trial continues,” Merkel told reporters.

Tolu’s father, Ali Rıza Tolu, was jubilant outside the courthouse, but said Ankara had “stolen” nearly a year of his daughter’s life and there was no proof of any wrongdoing. “My daughter is free,” he said. “We are now a happy family.”

The German government has called for her unconditional release. Chancellor spokesman Steffen Seibert said the conditional release marked “in no way an end to the case of Mesale Tolu.”

German lawmaker Cem Özdemir of the Green Party welcomed the decision, but warned that it meant little would change in the country. Instead, Özdemir called on Ankara to release “all political prisoners and German citizens.”

According to a Deutsch Welle report the German government has called for her unconditional release. The chancellor’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the conditional release “in no way [marks] an end to the case of Meşale Tolu.”

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

Merkel’s spokesman Seibert said Berlin would continue to press for the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel. Including Tolu, Ankara is preventing a total of 28 German citizens from leaving the country, Steffen said.

Meanwhile, journalists Zekeriya Gözüpek and Dicle Muftüoğlu are accused of being members of a terrorist organization. Gözüpek was the coordinator of DİHA news agency, which has been banned by a government decree under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Turkey, and Müftüoğlu was the editor in chief. Gözüpek and Müftüoğlu are facing imprisonment of 15 years.

The indictment was prepared by Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office after a complaint filed by Hüseyin Adalan, a columnist for the pro-government Milat, Yenisöz newspapers and a resident of Erzincan, in 2015. The indictment lists 20 news published by DİHA in November 2015, stating that Zekeriya Gözüpek and Dicle Müftüoğlu are members of a terrorist organization. The first trial in the trial of the two journalists will take place on March 22, 2018 in the 5th Criminal Court Diyarbakır.

Hüseyin Adalan has tweeted that killing people affiliated with Turkey’s Gülen movement is a “religious obligation for the Turkish state,” the Haberdar daily reported. “The honorable Turkish state needs to reveal its power. Killing FETÖ members is a religious obligation,” Adalan said in a tweet posted several days ago.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to members of the Gülen movement.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 252 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 15, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 226 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 139 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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