Germany denies ‘dirty deal’ with Turkey to release journalist

Stockholm CF — A speculated “dirty deal” between the Turkish government and the German administration over the surprise release of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel has given its first fruit in ties between two countries.

On Friday, the Turkish authorities released German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel after a year in detention for investigation. He was allowed to leave the country, even though he faces charges of “supporting terrorism.” The release removed a major point of conflict between the two countries and it opens the road for resuming arms sales to Turkey.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said last month  there would be no large-scale arms exports to Turkey unless Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German journalist, is released from prison.

Turkey remains the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 241 journalists and media workers are in jails as of February 16, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction.

But German FM Gabriel dismissed reports that an arms export agreement was sealed during the visit of NATO ally Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the weekend. However the German government has been  negotiating a billion euro upgrade for some 400 of Turkeys (German made) Leopard tanks, currently used in northern Syria against the Kurds and after an earlier meeting with  Cavusoglu last month, Gabriel instructed his office to put Turkey’s request for the tank upgrades on the agenda and “to look favourably” at it. 

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Saturday that Turkey is a key partner in the fight against terrorism. During his address at the Munich Security Conference, the conservative politician turned down opposition calls to restrict security cooperation with Turkey. “Turkey remains an important NATO partner,” de Maiziere said, defending the government’s policy of close cooperation between Berlin and Ankara.

Germany’s left opposition party Die Linke has criticized Turkey’s counter-terrorism operation in northwestern Syria, Operation Olive Branch, and called for restricting security cooperation with Ankara and suspending arms sales to Turkey.

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish PM Yıldırım told conference participants that Turkey’s measures against foreign fighters and its fight against the terrorist group PKK and its extensions PYD and YPG and ISIL in northern Syria carry significant importance for Europe’s security.