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Protestors carry placards during a demonstration to support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel outside theTurkish Embassy in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

(reuters_tickers)

By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German-Turkish journalist whose arrest in Turkey has badly jolted relations between Ankara and Berlin was quoted on Wednesday as saying the conditions of his detention had improved markedly since his transfer to prison from a police cell.

He has since been moved again to a second prison.

Deniz Yucel, who holds both German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested on Monday on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting public violence, after first being detained on Feb. 14.

Yucel, who faces up to 10-1/2 years in jail if convicted, denies the charges.

The arrest has provoked sharp rebukes from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who told reporters that German-Turkish relations were facing one of their greatest challenges of recent times.

Merkel underscored her concerns during a rally in the northern town of Demmin on Wednesday evening, telling members of her Christian Democratic Union that the German government would "do everything in its power" to secure Yucel's release.

Independent journalism is a basic pillar of democracy that can "never be questioned, even when it is uncomfortable," she said.

In a handwritten note to friends and supporters published by his newspaper Die Welt, Deniz said: "It may sound strange, but I feel as though I've won back a little bit of my freedom: Daylight! Fresh air! Real food! Tea and Nescafe! Smoking! Newspapers! A real bed!"

Yucel is the first German journalist held in a widespread crackdown in Turkey following a failed coup last July that has often targeted the media.

He said his transfer to a real prison also meant he had access to a private toilet, and added that he shared a kitchen and courtyard with a handful of other political prisoners.

"Even though they have stolen my freedom, the investigation and the court opinions continue to make me laugh," Yucel wrote.

APPEAL

Yucel wrote his note when his lawyers visited him in Istanbul's Metris prison. He has since been moved to Silivri prison, which has similar conditions, Die Welt said.

Yucel plans to appeal against his arrest, lawyer Veysel Ok told Reuters.

The German government is demanding Yucel's swift release and wants consular access to him and five other German citizens detained in Germany since the failed July 15 coup, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

"We expect that he will be released as soon as possible," Seibert told a regular government news conference on Wednesday.

Separately on Wednesday the German foreign ministry confirmed that Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag would speak at an event in Germany on Thursday. This could provide an opportunity for direct talks on Yucel's fate.

The German newspaper Badische Neueste Nachrichten reported that Bozdag would come to rally support among Germany's estimated 1.5 million ethnic Turkish population for an April referendum on expanding the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Editing by Gareth Jones/Jeremy Gaunt)

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