German journalist in court case cleared to leave Turkey

Mesale Tolu’s case has soured German-Turkish ties in recent years. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2018
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German journalist in court case cleared to leave Turkey

BERLIN: A Turkish court has ruled that German journalist Mesale Tolu can leave the country, eight months after being released from prison during a trial on terror-related charges.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that the decision, taken a few weeks ago but only made public now, is "a step toward improving our relations with Turkey."
But he added that "it is also clear that this cannot remain the only step," pointing to at least seven other cases in which German citizens are detained in Turkey for what Berlin considers political reasons.
The journalist’s case has been one of several that have soured German-Turkish relations over the past two years.
A group that has campaigned for Tolu said that a court lifted conditions imposed on her after her release but that an exit ban on her husband, Suat Corlu, who has faced similar charges in the same proceedings, was not lifted.
Those restrictions had been put in place by an Istanbul court last December. Though it said Tolu could go free, it barred her from leaving Turkey and required her to report to authorities at regular intervals.
Tolu has been charged with engaging in terrorist propaganda and being a member of a banned left-wing group, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.
She rejects the accusations. There has been no verdict yet in the trial.
Though relations between Germany and Turkey have been strained, Berlin has made clear its desire to see an economically stable and prosperous Turkey, which has been grappling with a currency crisis heightened by tensions with the US over the case of a detained American pastor.

Berlin visit
Over the weekend, the leader of Germany's junior governing party raised the possibility of some kind of German help.
"A situation could arise in which Germany has to help Turkey, independently of the political disputes with President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan," Andrea Nahles of the center-left Social Democrats was quoted as telling the Funke newspaper group. She noted that Turkey is a NATO partner.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, gave that a cautious response.
"The question ... of German aid for Turkey does not currently arise for the German government," he told reporters Monday.
Asked about the possibility of an International Monetary Fund package, Seibert said that seeking one is always a matter for the country concerned and the Finance Ministry said it didn't come up in a conversation between the German and Turkish finance ministers last week.
Erdogan is scheduled to make a state visit to Berlin Sept. 28-29.
Ahead of that, Turkey's finance, transport and trade ministers will hold talks in Germany on Sept. 21, Finance Ministry spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.


Turkey dismisses 259 local officials for suspected terrorist links

Updated 15 October 2018
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Turkey dismisses 259 local officials for suspected terrorist links

  • Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu removed 259 local neighborhood heads
  • Turkey has suspended or sacked over 140,000 public sector employees because of alleged links to the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup

ANKARA: Turkey has dismissed 259 local officials for suspected links to terrorist groups or unsuitable behavior, the government said on Monday, a move the pro-Kurdish opposition said was aimed at helping the ruling AK Party ahead of 2019 polls.
The elected officials, known as “mukhtars,” serve as the lowest administrative authority in Turkey. Although not officially members of any political party, they are influential in decision-making in their villages and local districts.
The officials were dismissed pending an investigation, the Interior Ministry said, adding they were suspected of links to groups that threaten Turkey’s security or of behavior not befitting their duties. It did not elaborate on the charges.
The ministry did not give a geographic breakdown of the dismissals, but a parliamentarian from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the move was the latest attempt by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party to curtail the HDP’s influence in the largely Kurdish southeast.
“Following the arrest of municipality heads from the HDP, the appointment of trustees to municipalities and the removal of immunity and arrest of parliamentarians, it is now the mukhtars’ turn,” Meral Danis Bestas said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the HDP said she did not know how many of the dismissed officials came from the southeast.
Some 94 of 102 municipalities in Kurdish-majority cities and towns are now administered by trustees rather than by their elected mayors. Authorities removed those mayors, elected in the last municipal elections in 2014, in a security crackdown that followed an attempted military coup in 2016.
Erdogan has said the government would appoint trustees to any municipalities held by the HDP after March 2019 local elections.
Erdogan and his AK Party say the HDP has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group that has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The HDP denies accusations of links to the PKK and says it is being unjustly targeted by the government.
Last week the government dismissed 559 village guards for suspected terrorist links and another 76 for suspected involvement in human and drug smuggling.
Village guards are locals armed and paid by the state to protect their communities, mostly in the east and the southeast. They are frequent targets for PKK militants.
The PKK is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and Europe.