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German envoy visits jailed Germans in Turkey

August 23, 2017

Germany's ambassador to Turkey has visited journalist Deniz Yucel and activist Peter Steudtner, German citizens detained in Turkey. They are among the nine German nationals currently imprisoned by the Erdogan government.

Deutschland Peter Steudtner und Deniz Yücel
Image: picture-alliance/privat/K. Schindler

Germany's Foreign Ministry said that jailed German journalist Deniz Yuceland rights campaigner Peter Steudtner were "doing well given the circumstances," after German Ambassador to Turkey Martin Erdmann was granted access to both men at the high security Silivri Prison in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Erdmann's talks with the two German citizens were "intensive and took more than an hour each," the Foreign Office in Berlin said.

Read more: Turkey seeks arrest of dozens of journalists

Yucel, a German-Turkish reporter for German daily Die Welt, handed himself in to Turkish authorities in February after being accused of "incitement of the population" and disseminating "terrorist propaganda." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly denounced Yucel as a German "spy" and an "agent" for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Steudtner was arrested in July on the island Buyukada, by Istanbul, as he held a workshop for Turkish human rights campaigners. He was detained along with Swedish IT specialist Ali Gharavi and nine Turkish rights activists, including the director for Amnesty International in Turkey, Idil Eser. They all stand accused of supporting an unidentified terrorist organization.

Despite the Foreign Office's mainly positive assessment of the prison conditions, both Yucel and Steudtner's attorneys have denounced the prison environment.

The visit was planned before badly-strained relations between Germany and Turkey once again took a turn for the worse last week, after Ankara demanded the extradition of Turkish-born German author Dogan Akhanli from Spain, where he was holidaying at the time. The Spanish court has 40 days from the time of the extradition request to reach a decision.

Turkey has accused the German government of sheltering terrorists wanted in connection with the failed coup attempt of July last year. Meanwhile, since the attempted government overthrow, Turkish authorities have arrested 22 German citizens, according to the German government, nine of which still remain detained.

Merkel warns Turkey in row over German writer

No access to detained journalist Tolu

German Ambassador Erdmann was not granted permission by Turkish authorities to visit detained journalist and translator Mesale Tolu, who was arrested in Istanbul in April and remains detained with a her two-year-old at a woman's prison. A reporter for the critical ETHA news agency, Tolu faces accusations of membership to the left-wing MLKP extremist group and spreading terrorist propaganda.

A Turkish court on Tuesday delayed decision on Tolu's release. Her lawyer told the Deutsche Presse Agentur that they hope receive a decision on Wednesday but admitted that the chances of a favorable ruling were "low."

Her family hopes she will be released before her trial begins on October 11. She faces a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Although Tolu and Steudtner, as non-Turkish nationals, have a right to consular visits, Turkish justice officials have been reluctant to grant access. The move has led German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to accuse Erdogan of holding German citizens as "hostages."

dm/kl (dpa, Reuters)

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