By MEHMET GUZEL
ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Monday ordered German journalist Mesale Tolu and five of her co-defendants released from prison pending the outcome of their trial on terror-related charges.
The court in Istanbul freed Tolu but barred her from traveling abroad. She must also report to authorities at regular intervals.
The 33-year-old German citizen with Turkish roots is accused of engaging in terrorist propaganda and being a member of a banned left-wing group, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. Tolu, who faces maximum 15 years in prison if convicted, has denied the accusations.
She is on trial at a courthouse in the outskirts of Istanbul together with 17 defendants. Tolu and five others were in pre-trial detention until Monday’s decision. All defendants have now been freed pending a verdict.
Before her arrest in May, Tolu worked as a translator and journalist for the Turkish ETHA news agency. Turkish prosecutors considered her attendance at the funerals of several members of the outlawed group as evidence of her membership in the outlawed group.
She was one of nine German or German-Turkish citizens arrested in Turkey for reasons Berlin considers to be political. Her case is among issues that have soured relations between Turkey and Germany in recent months.
In Berlin, German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told reporters: “We take note of this news with joy and relief.”
She added that more than two dozen German citizens are currently barred from leaving Turkey.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that “if confirmed this is really good news” that might result in improvements in German-Turkish relations, which have been strained in part because of the ongoing legal cases.
“We see this as a very positive step,” he said.
“This isn’t just good news, it’s a great relief,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement Monday.
“I believe all of us in Germany — and I personally too — are happy for Mesale Tolu about the court’s decision,” he said. “This doesn’t end the legal proceedings but it’s a first, big step toward that.”
Scores of journalists have been jailed in Turkey on terror-related charges as part of a wider government crackdown launched in the wake of last year’s failed coup.
Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist for German newspaper Die Welt was arrested Feb. 14 and remains in prison. Turkish authorities accuse him of disseminating terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred, as well as espionage. Yucel denies the allegations.
Associated Press journalists Neyran Elden in Istanbul, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.