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Accused German journalist freed after year in Turkish jail

By Ed Adamczyk
German journalist Deniz Yucel greets his wife Friday after his release from an Istanbul, Turkey, prison. He was arrested in 2016 on terrorist-related charges and spent a year in jail awaiting his trial. <a class="tpstyle" href="https://twitter.com/shemmoshemmo">Photo courtesy of Veysel Ok/Twitter</a>
German journalist Deniz Yucel greets his wife Friday after his release from an Istanbul, Turkey, prison. He was arrested in 2016 on terrorist-related charges and spent a year in jail awaiting his trial. Photo courtesy of Veysel Ok/Twitter

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Turkish police released German journalist Deniz Yücel on Friday after a year in custody, a sign of a thaw in German-Turkish relations.

Yücel was arrested in 2016 on charges of promoting "propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "incitement of the people to hatred and hostility." His arrest occurred shortly after a failed military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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The release of Yücel came during his pre-trial detention, and after protracted negations between the foreign ministries of Germany and Turkey.

Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Both leaders promised to improve strained ties between Turkey and Germany.

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Although German Foreign Office spokesman Rainer Breul said neither nation arranged a deal for Yücel's freedom, the release had "special meaning" for German-Turkish relations. He added that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel "made great efforts in the last few days to contribute to a solution."

With over $36 billion in bilateral trade, Germany is Turkey's largest trading partner and is home to several million people of Turkish descent. Erdogan said last year, amid increasing calls from Europe for Yücel's release, that the journalist would not be freed as long as he was Turkey's president.

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"We have images and everything in our hands. He's a terrorist agent," Erdogan said at the time.

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Yücel, 44, is a journalist for the German newspaper Die Welt. The news outlet reported Friday a comment from Editor In-Chief Ulf Poschardt, who said, "We are immensely happy and grateful that Deniz is free after a year behind bars. Our thanks go to Deniz for his unwavering strength and humor in the darkest hours, his wife, his family, his friends and the fantastic brave lawyer Veysel Ok, but also the [German] federal government."

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