BERLIN (AP) — Turkey's prime minister said Thursday during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a prominent German-Turkish journalist held in prison for a year has not yet been formally charged because of a backlog in court cases following a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Binali Yildirim said he hopes a court hearing for Deniz Yucel, a 44-year-old correspondent for German daily Die Welt, "will take place in a short period of time."
Yucel, who has both German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested in Istanbul a year ago Wednesday on terrorism and propaganda accusations. His high-profile case and that of six other German citizens that are held in Turkey for what Germany considers political reasons have soured relations between the two countries badly.
"Be it Deniz Yucel or other defendants, their trials are continuing under the principle of the state of law," Yildirim told reporters. "Turkey went through a major coup attempt. There are thousands of trials concerning the coup. The courts are very busy. There is a delay stemming from the workload of the court."
It is the first time the Turkish government has given any kind of explanation for why Yucel has not yet been formally charged.
Merkel also reiterated the German government's stance that a fair and speedy trial for Yucel and the other detained Germans is a prerequisite for improving relations between the two countries.
However, she also called Yildirim's visit "a signal that both sides have the will to improve German-Turkish relations ... even if that's not so easy at the moment."
During the news conference, a man in the in the reporters' section of the Chancellery interrupted the session briefly by holding up pictures of injured people with the word "Afrin" written across them in bold letters.
The Turkish government started a military operation last month against the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. There have been deaths on both sides.
Yildirim responded to the man holding up the pictures by telling him that, "If you want to know what's happening in Afrin, you have go there — don't try to manipulate us."
Outside of the Chancellery there were protests as well. More than 100 people, including Kurdish groups, protested against Yildirim's visit holding up banners with the slogan "Turkey get out of Kurdistan" and waving Kurdish flags.
Suzan Fraser contributed from Ankara, Turkey.