A German journalist and translator tried in Turkey for “terrorist” activities announced on Monday that the Turkish authorities had lifted her ban on leaving the country, in a decision that has been welcomed by Berlin.
“After being appealed by my lawyers, the ban on leaving the territory to which I was subjected was lifted, and I thank all those who have been with me and who have supported me,” Mesale Tolu said on Twitter. The 34-year-old journalist had been banned from leaving Turkey since her release on bail in December after eight months in custody. Her incarceration, for “propaganda” and “belonging to the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP)”, which Turkey calls as a terrorist group, had created tensions between Ankara and Berlin.
Mesale Tolu, who before her arrest was working for a small left-wing Turkish news agency, Etkin Haber Ajansi (ETHA), faces up to 15 years in prison if found guiltey on charges stemming from her participation in demonstrations and funerals of MLKP militants. Supporters of the journalist, who denies all the accusations, denounce the court proceedings as a political trial.
Berlin has welcomed Tolu’s release as “a step towards improving” German-Turkish relations. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was “relieved” by the “good news.” He added, however, that Ankara should continue these efforts and that Germany would continue to “take a critical stance on many aspects of the rule of law in Turkey.”
“This applies in particular to cases of imprisonment in progress: at least seven Germans are currently imprisoned for political reasons that we find incomprehensible,” he said in a statement.
Before the case of Mesale Tolu, the incarceration of another journalist, the German-Turk Deniz Yücel, had also created tensions with Germany. Deniz Yücel was released on bail in February after more than a year in prison. The decision in favor of Mesale Tolu comes one month away from a planned trip by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Berlin, while Turkey and Germany have been striving for several months to improve their relations.
Moreover, Turkey has in recent days has made a number of conciliatory gestures towards Europe, against a backdrop of serious tensions between Ankara and Washington. Last week, Turkish courts released two Greek soldiers and the president of Amnesty International in Turkey, which were unexpected developments in two cases that fueled tensions with Europe.