German journalist Mesale Tolu released in Turkey

Court orders Mesale Tolu, who is accused of 'terror' charges, to stay in Turkey and register with police once a week.

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    Mesale Tolu was detained in Istanbul in April and had been in jail since then [Osman Orsal/Reuters]
    Mesale Tolu was detained in Istanbul in April and had been in jail since then [Osman Orsal/Reuters]

    An Istanbul court has released German journalist Mesale Tolu pending trial, after eight months in prison, but banned her from leaving Turkey.

    She was released on Monday, along with five others who are also accused of charges relating to "terror" in the same case.

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    "The court took the length of her imprisonment, the evidence related to the case in consideration and decided that her staying jailed would be an unjust treatment," Ezgi Gungordu, one of Tolu's lawyers, told Al Jazeera.

    "However, considering she is a German citizen, it was decided that she had high probability to escape the country after her release," she said.

    The court ordered the six released defendants not to leave Turkey and to register once a week at the police station nearest to their residences.

    A total of 18 suspects are involved in the case. Another 12 are being tried without arrest. Tolu was detained in late April in Istanbul while working for a left-leaning media organisation.

    Accusations

    Tolu is charged with "being a member of a terrorist organisation" and "carrying out terrorist propaganda" for joining funerals of members of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, an organisation outlawed in Turkey.

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    "She went to most of these funerals to write news stories as part of her work or in some cases because she personally knows these people. They are from the same political environment," lawyer Gungordu told Al Jazeera, adding that she hoped Tolu would be acquitted in the next two trials.

    The next trial in the case is scheduled for April.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to reporters in Berlin following the release of Tolu, called the ruling "good news", but stressed that the trial was not over. 

    German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter: "We welcome the release of Mesale Tolu from prison. Although this is not the end of the trial it is an important step forward."

    Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been tense since the last year's failed coup, as a result of the imprisonment of German journalists and activists in Turkey on "terror" charges, among other reasons.

    Germany and other European Union (EU) member states have condemned the Turkish government's detentions and purges of tens of thousands of people after the July 2016 incident. 

    Yucel remains jailed

    Deniz Yucel, a prominent German journalist and critic of the Turkish government, is among the German citizens who remain imprisoned in Turkey on "terror" charges after the coup attempt.

    Local and international rights groups accuse the government of using the coup attempt as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.

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    The government says that the purges and detentions are aimed at removing supporters of Fethullah Gulen from state institutions and other parts of society.

    Gulen is a US-based, self-exiled religious leader who Ankara blames for the attempted coup.

    Ravza Kavakci Kan, the deputy chairperson of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) responsible for human rights, told Al Jazeera in a recent interview that the trials and investigations that followed July's coup attempt fell within the bounds of the law.

    "Turkey is a country of rule of law. We, as politicians, follow the developments in this trial or other trials as other outsiders follow it. We have no jurisdiction over them," she said.

    The EU recently shrunk so-called "pre-accession funds" for Turkey for the first time in the 2018 budget, due to what it called the country's "deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights".

    Umut Uras is on Twitter, follow him on @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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