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Turkey jails German journalist on terrorism charges

German Chancellor Merkel said she was disappointed by detention of Deniz Yucel, who was charged with 'spreading terrorist propaganda'
Protestors calling for the freedom of journalist Deniz Yucel, Berlin, 19 February (Reuters)

A court in Istanbul on Monday ordered provisional detention of a correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, a move that drew a stern rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The newspaper said Deniz Yucel, 43, a dual citizen of Turkey and Germany, had been charged with spreading terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred.

He has been held since 18 February in connection with news reports on an attack by hackers against the email account of Turkey's energy minister.

The minister, Berat Albayrak, is a son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Die Welt said the emails also pointed to efforts to control Turkish media groups and manipulate public opinion via fake social media accounts.

In a statement, Merkel called the court's decision "bitter and disappointing".

"The government expects that in handling Yucel's case, Turkey's justice system will keep in mind the significant importance of press freedom in all democratic societies," she added.

"We will continue to insist on a fair and legal treatment of Deniz Yücel and hope that he will soon regain his freedom."

Germany's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, was even more harsh in his assessment of the case, saying it showed in "glaring light" the differences in the two countries in evaluating freedom of press and freedom of opinion.

Relations between Berlin and Ankara have been strained by a series of disputes since the failed coup attempt to oust Erdogan in July 2016.

Turkey has since clamped down on the press, arresting hundreds of journalists without trial.

About 170 media outlets have been closed and nearly 800 press cards cancelled, according to journalists' associations.

More than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended from Turkey's police, military, civil service and private sector since the failed coup. Ankara says the measures are necessary given the security threats it faces.

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