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Erdogan says Yucel was a PKK plant with German support

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused an arrested newspaper reporter of being a "German agent." Multiple German cities have banned rallies of support for Erdogan's presidential referendum.

Watch video 00:58

Erdogan accuses Germany of aiding terrorism

As the spat between Ankara and Berlin becomes increasingly angry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Deniz Yucel, a Die Welt reporter with dual nationality, a "German agent" and a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"This person hid in the German embassy as a member of the PKK and a German agent for one month," Erdogan told an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Friday.

Turkey has charged Yucel with propaganda in support of a terrorist organization. Authorities say he spread propaganda for both the banned PKK and the movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of masterminding a military coup in July.

In September, Yucel reported on social media trolls in the service of Turkey's government, based in part on emails published by WikiLeaks and the domestic group known as Red Hack. The emails, already publicly available, apparently came from the inbox of Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, Turkey's energy minister.

Watch video 02:17

Turkey tells Germany: 'Learn how to behave'

The chancellor responds

Erdogan and his Foreign Ministry have also expressed outrage over decisions in multiple German cities to cancel rallies by Turkish officials. On Thursday, officials in the southwestern German town of Gaggenau called off a meeting that Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had planned to address. Also on Thursday, the city of Cologne blocked an event that Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had planned to speak at on Sunday, and shortly after, a venue in the town of Frechen canceled an event he had intended to address there.

Officials said they canceled the event in Gaggenau because organizers had misled them about its purpose, apparently originally billing it as a theater performance. Authorities evacuated the city hall for hours on Friday after receiving a bomb threat, the mayor told the German broadcaster n-tv.

Erdogan has increased efforts to rally Germany's nearly 1.5 million Turkish citizens for an April referendum that could expand the powers of his presidency, something he has sought with increased urgency since July's apparent bid to topple him. The president has accused Turkey's NATO allies of failing to condemn the putsch quickly - or strongly - enough. Since the coup, Erdogan's regime has ordered more than 100,000 people arrested, dismissed or sacked for alleged links to the plotters or to the PKK.

Angela Merkel said her government played no part in the municipalities' decisions to cancel the rallies. She also renewed her criticism of Yucel's arrest.

"We support freedom of expression - and we can criticize Turkey," Merkel said. As for the cancellations, the chancellor said, "We support the decisions that were taken."

mkg/bw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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