September 28, 2018 / 10:07 AM / 2 months ago

Erdogan and Merkel to talk business, human rights

BERLIN, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Tayyip Erdogan and Angela Merkel hope to ease tensions between their countries at a meeting on Friday, but the Turkish president may not like what he sees at a news conference he is scheduled to hold with the German chancellor.

Can Dundar, one of the Turkish journalists most critical of Erdogan, might be in the hall at the chancellery, Bild newspaper reported on its website.

Germany has been one of the fiercest critics of Erdogan’s crackdown on journalists and political opponents, and if Dundar attends the news conference Merkel would be sending a message to her guest to clean up his human rights record.

Bild said the government had granted Dundar accreditation for the news conference. Dundar did not return calls seeking confirmation.

Dundar and a colleague from the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Erdem Gul, were sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria. They were released pending appeal and Dundar left the country.

Turkey’s highest court ruled in March that Dundar should have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on espionage charges.

Merkel said on Thursday she wanted to improve economic ties with Turkey but would raise human rights with Erdogan. The fate of German prisoners in Turkey will also be on the agenda.

Erdogan started his state visit with military honours at the Bellevue Palace where he held talks with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He is eager to secure German investments to shore up an economy feeling the burden of heavy foreign debt load that has increased as the lira slid by 40 percent this year.

Protesters holding Turkish flags and posters of Erdogan’s political opponents lined some streets taken by the president’s convoy of three Mercedes-Benz limousines escorted by police in Berlin where many main avenues were closed for the visit.

In an article published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily as he began his three-day visit, Erdogan urged Germany to designate the group he blames for a 2016 coup attempt a terrorist organisation.

Germany has so far said it needs more evidence to link the movement of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States, to the attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

Many Turkish military officers and civil servants came to Germany seeking asylum after the failed coup.

Yeni Asir, a small Turkish pro-government newspaper, said on Friday that Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency had given Germany a list of 69 terrorism suspects and that Erdogan would ask Merkel to extradite them.

Those on the list include journalist Dundar, Kurdish and leftist militants, and individuals accused of links to Gulen. (Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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