Berlin (CNN)A man calling for freedom of the press and the release of journalists held in Turkey was removed by security from a news conference between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday.
Journalist calling for press freedom ejected from Berlin news conference
He was later identified as Turkish journalist and general secretary of the European Turkish Journalists' Association Adil Yigit, who lives in Germany and is a staunch critic of Erdogan.
The news conference, held on the second day of a controversial state visit by the Turkish leader, was well underway when Yigit, sitting on one of the front rows with a camera, was marched out of the room by two men, revealing a T-shirt reading "freedom for journalists" and "freedom of the press for journalists in Turkey."
Dozens of journalists, including foreign reporters, have been imprisoned without trial in Turkey on terror charges since a failed coup attempt in 2016, according to reports. Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
In footage of Friday's incident posted by Juergen Kloeckner, parliamentary correspondent for the Huffington Post in Germany, Yigit can be heard saying in German, "I haven't done anything. What's wrong?"
Shortly afterward, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert defended the decision to remove Yigit.
Regardless of "whether it is a legitimate concern or not," the government does not tolerate any demonstrations of a political nature at press conferences held in the Chancellery or the German parliament, he said on Twitter.
Yigit's protest was not the first incident to disrupt Erdogan's visit to Germany, which began Thursday.
Rumors were circulating Friday morning that Erdogan was threatening to boycott the news conference if Can Dundar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, a Turkish news outlet critical of Erdogan, were to attend as planned.
In a statement, Dundar later confirmed the rumors and announced his decision not to attend, citing concerns that his presence could trigger a "diplomatic crisis."
In 2016, Dundar was convicted in a Turkish court of obtaining and revealing state secrets. He was sentenced to almost six years in prison, but left Turkey for Germany, where he now works as a journalist.
Responding to a question about Dundar from a journalist at the news conference, Merkel confirmed that Dundar had received accreditation for the event and that he had made the decision not to attend "by himself."
"I can confirm that there are different opinions about him and his case between the President of Turkey and me," Merkel added.
That difference of opinion was made clear by Erdogan, who described Dundar as an "agent who has revealed state secrets to the public" and "who should be in prison." He criticized Germany's d