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German journalist in court case cleared to leave Turkey

BERLIN (AP) — 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 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. Tolu'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, wasn't 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 U.S. over the case of a detained American pastor.

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.

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