Turkish court rejects demand for release of Die Welt journalist: court ruling

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court rejected a demand on Wednesday for the release of a German-Turkish journalist whose arrest last month has contributed to strained ties with Germany, according to a court ruling seen by Reuters.


Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt, was jailed in late February on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting public violence.


The first German journalist to be held in a widespread crackdown that has followed the failed July 15 coup in Turkey and frequently targeted the media, he faces up to 10-1/2 years in prison if convicted.


Yucel's lawyer launched an appeal for his release last week. But on Wednesday, an Istanbul penal court ruled that the nature of his reporting was beyond the bounds of media freedom.


"The headlines, images, expressions, language and the tone in the defendant's reporting cannot be evaluated within the limits of journalism and press freedom," the ruling said.

Authorities initially detained Yucel after he reported on emails that a leftist hacker collective had purportedly obtained from the private account of Berat Albayarak, Turkey's energy minister and the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has described Yucel, a dual German-Turkish national, as a "German agent" and a member of an armed Kurdish militant group, and said a growing row between the two countries is because of Germany's support for Turkey's enemies.

The spat between the two NATO allies has deepened since Erdogan called local German bans on rallies by Turkish ministers ahead of an April 16 referendum on increasing his powers "fascist actions", infuriating the German government.

He has also branded the Netherlands "Nazi remnants" after Dutch authorities banned a rally in Rotterdam at the weekend, fearing tensions in Turkey over the referendum could spill over into its expatriate Turkish community.

Berlin continues to press for fair treatment of Yucel and has rejected Turkey's claim that he was working as a German spy as "absolutely baseless".

It remained unclear when the first hearing for Yucel would be held, his lawyer, Veysel Ok, told Reuters.

More than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended from Turkey's police, military and private sector since the failed coup and tens of thousands arrested. Ankara says the measures are necessary given the security threats it faces.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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