Journalist’s release helps German-Turkish ties to thaw

German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel and his wife, Dilek Mayaturk Yucel, are pictured in front of their home after Deniz Yucel was released from prison in Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 17 February 2018

Journalist’s release helps German-Turkish ties to thaw

ANKARA: The decision to free the Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel on Friday has removed one of the stumbling blocks to the normalization of relations between Germany and Turkey.
The surprise decision came 16 hours after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, when Yildirim hinted about “changes” in Yucel’s case.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who has held regular talks with his Turkish counterpart, thanked the Turkish government on his Twitter account for its support toward a resolution.
Yucel, a reporter for German daily Die Welt, was detained in Turkey a year ago on suspicion of “spreading terrorist propaganda to incite the population.” He denied the charges, but no indictment was prepared until hours before his release.
Yucel’s detention in an Istanbul prison was one of the major symbols of tension between the countries and Merkel called it a “burden” on bilateral relations.
Experts said that the release was the outcome of several mutual gestures between Ankara and Berlin to mend ties by respecting mutual sensitivities.
In a surprising move, Germany on Wednesday banned several gatherings planned by NAV-DEM, an organization affiliated with the PKK — listed as a terror group by the EU, Turkey and the US — in northwestern cities.
German police said they based the decision on the probability that members of the group might again carry outlawed symbols of the terrorist group as they did last month.
Alper Ucok, Berlin representative of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), said the progress reached on the Ankara-Berlin axis was the result of a lengthy process.
“Despite the problematic relations over the last year and many ups and downs regarding bilateral relations, both Turkey and Germany were determined to make use of all available communication, including official and non-official back channels, which brought about this positive change toward normalization,” he said.
German human rights activist Peter Steudtner, German pilgrim David Britsch and German-Turkish journalist Mesale Tolu were released late last year by Turkey.
Ucok said Turkey has been keen on normalizing its strained ties with the EU for some time, particularly in the run-up to the EU-Turkey leaders’ meeting on March 26 in Bulgaria.
“In that respect, the normalization of relations with Germany was more vital than ever. The continuity of this constructive process depends partly on the German government to be formed soon, which must formulate new Turkish policy for the next term, and partly to the encouraging repercussions at the EU level,” he said.
Conversely, according to Ucok, it would also be very decisive if Turkey took steps toward normalization at the domestic level, including the re-evaluation of conditions for lifting the state of emergency rule, which had been in effect since last July’s failed military coup.
“If Turkey could not take positive steps to strengthen its democracy soon, these slow normalization steps with Germany and also with EU might be doomed unsustainable even sooner,” he said. There are more than 150 journalists still behind bars in Turkey.


Palestinians allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque

Updated 23 October 2020

Palestinians allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque

  • Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had been barred for four months in June, was able to attend the Friday prayers
  • Palestinians from inside Israel were among those reaching Jerusalem for the weekly Friday prayers

AMMAN: An estimated 15,000 Palestinian worshippers flocked to Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, one month after the Israeli authorities banned entry due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Al-Aqsa’s preacher and the head of the Higher Islamic Committee, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had been barred for four months in June, was able to attend the Friday prayers. He told Arab News that the situation was back to normal. “All gates were open today and the Israelis allowed worshipers access to the mosque,” he said. Sheikh Sabri had issued calls to Muslims who could attend Friday prayers.
Hijazi Risheq, the head of the Jerusalem merchants committee, told Arab News that for the first time in weeks Israeli soldiers allowed entry to Islam’s third holiest mosque.
He said: “No Israeli soldiers were seen at the entrance of Jerusalem’s old city, allowing free access to the walled city, but some Palestinian youth with West Bank ID were prevented access to the mosque.”
Palestinians from inside Israel were among those reaching Jerusalem for the weekly Friday prayers.
Risheq told Arab News that the past week had been difficult for the city’s business community.
“During last week we witnessed an unprecedented and nasty campaign by the Israeli occupation forces against the merchants and residents of the city of Jerusalem. Shopkeepers were fined exorbitant violations of 5,000 shekels ($1,500) and any clients at the shops were also fined 500 shekels.”
Rizeq said that there appeared to be miscommunication and contradictions in the orders and guidance by the Israeli forces — “all at the expense of the merchants and residents of the city.”
The prevention of entry to the old city was a combination of the Jewish holidays and the lockdown due to the coronavirus, Palestinians told Arab News.
The Jerusalem Waqf Council had issued a six-point guide to worshippers giving medical advice about social distancing and about bringing their own prayer rugs, and recommended that older Muslims stay away from Al-Aqsa for their own protection.
Miki Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, confirmed the prayers for Muslims. “The Temple Mout (Al-Aqsa) was open on Friday and the prayers took place in a regular and quiet manner,” he told Arab News.