Turkish leader calls German journalist a 'terrorist'

  • 20/03/2017
Protestors carry placards during a demonstration to support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel (Reuters)
Protestors carry placards during a demonstration to support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel (Reuters)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused a jailed Turkish-German journalist of being a terrorist agent, comments which are likely to cause further unease in Berlin over the incident.

Mr Erdogan, who was speaking at a meeting of an Islamic foundation in Istanbul on Sunday, said the reporter, Deniz Yucel of Germany's Die Welt newspaper, would be tried by Turkey's independent judiciary.

Authorities arrested Yucel, a dual Turkish and German national, last month on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting the public to violence.

He was initially detained after he reported on emails that a leftist hacker collective had purportedly obtained from the private account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey's energy minister and Mr Erdogan's son-in-law.

He is the first German journalist to be detained in a Turkish crackdown following the failed July 15 coup that has frequently targeted the media. Berlin has said that a separate claim that Yucel was working as a German spy was "absolutely baseless".

Turkey has also accused Germany of supporting the network of a US-based Muslim cleric it blames for last year's attempted coup.

Germany and Turkey have been locked in a deepening row after Berlin banned some Turkish ministers from speaking to rallies of expatriate Turks ahead of a referendum next month, citing public safety concerns.

On Saturday, German news magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with the head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency, who said Ankara had failed to convince it that the cleric Fethullah Gulen was responsible for the coup attempt.

Mr Erdogan's spokesman said the comments were proof Germany was supporting Gulen's network, which Ankara refers to as the "Gulenist Terrorist Organisation" or "FETO".

There was no response from Germany to the comments.

Ankara blames Mr Gulen's network of followers in the military for the abortive putsch in July, when a group of rogue soldiers seized tanks, helicopters and war planes to attack parliament and attempt to overthrow the government. More than 240 people were killed in the coup attempt.

Mr Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

Mr Kalin said there was a possibility Mr Erdogan could plan a rally to address Turks in Germany before the April 16 referendum on changing the constitution, a move that would further heighten tensions with Berlin.

The constitutional change would give Mr Erdogan sweeping new powers. Critics say it would give him too much power.