The German chancellor did not ask Turkey to release a German reporter detained in Turkey, hoping to avoid irking Ankara that has made a routine to imprison journalists.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel implored her Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, for fair treatment for Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel, who was detained in Turkey on Friday among seven other journalists in connection with their reporting on a hacked email account of a Turkish minister.
Instead of asking Turkey to immediately release Mr. Yucel from prison, Mrs. Merkel asked the Turkish leader to follow due process in prosecuting the reporter.
Mr. Yucel, 43, had reported on hacked e-mails of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, drawing an angry response by the Turkish authorities. In December, Turkish authorities detained six journalists for reporting about the hacked emails. 3 of them were later arrested pending trial.
Mr. Yucel’s detention is a continuation of this pattern — covering the hacked emails, dumped by WikiLeaks in December, is off-limits. The German reporter’s detention also came a day after German authorities raided houses of four imams suspected of spying for Turkey. Ankara responded angrily to the raids and dismissed allegations that the imams were spying for the Turkish government.
Mr. Yucel was called into a police station for questioning on Tuesday and taken into custody. His house was also searched.
Turkey has been under the emergency rule since a failed coup attempt last July, which gives the police right to keep suspects under custody up to 7 days without any charges. Terror-related suspects could be detained up to 30 days.
Turkey is world’s biggest prison for journalists, where more than 150 journalists are behind bars. More than a dozen foreign journalists were jailed in the past few years, but most of them were later deported from the country. It was not clear if Mr. Yucel’s case will face a similar path.
“The Turkish government constantly stresses that Turkey is beholden to the rule of law. Therefore we trust that fair proceedings will prove his innocence,” said German daily Die Welt’s editor-in-chief Ulf Poschardt.
“Our correspondent Deniz Yücel does excellent work.”
Mr. Yildirim, who happened to be visiting Germany this week, met with Mrs. Merkel earlier Saturday on the heels of the Munich Security Conference, where the chancellor raised Mr. Yucel’s case.
Mrs. Merkel pressed Mr. Yildirim that the reporter would be treated fairly and in accordance with the law, according to her spokesman Steffen Seirbert.
The Turkish prime minister told Mrs. Merkel that the incident was “regrettable,” but the West should not be fooled by “negative propaganda” towards demonizing his government.
German Foreign Ministry also avoided calling on Ankara to drop charges against Mr. Yucel, release him and instead urged Turkish authorities to respect the rule of law and uphold press freedom. Echoing Mrs. Merkel, the ministry said in a statement on Friday that it expects Turkey to treat Mr. Yucel fairly.
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