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RIGHTS >Deniz Yücel, reporter from Germany’s Die Welt, arrested in Turkey

ISTANBUL / BERLIN

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The Turkish authorities on Feb. 27 arrested a correspondent from German newspaper Die Welt on charges of “propaganda in support of a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to violence.” 

Deniz Yücel, a dual citizen of Turkey and Germany, was initially detained by police on Feb. 14. 

In his four-hour long interrogation at an Istanbul court, Yücel said “I love my country despite its faults and deficiencies.”

“I’ve never been a member of any [criminal] organization. The only organization I’m a member of is the German Journalists’ Union. I made comments based on basic human rights and freedoms in accordance with universal journalism principals,” Yücel said in his testimony.

“I’m doing this job without taking orders from anybody, the state or my boss. I do it with my professional knowledge and conscience,” he added. 

Stressing that his interview with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) figure Cemil Bayık was “journalistic activity,” Yücel noted that he also wrote articles criticizing the outlawed group. 

However, the court ruled that Yücel presented the PKK “like a legitimate structure” in the interview, claiming that in an article dated Sept. 26, 2016 he incited Turkish and Kurdish citizens to violence. 

The court also referred to Yücel’s pieces on the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, claiming that he made propaganda of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have been behind the thwarted coup. 

The court thus ordered the arrest of Yücel, ruling that judicial control provisions fell short. 

During the hearing, German Consul General in Istanbul Georg Birgelen, Yücel’s relatives, and lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) all waited in the court. 

CHP Istanbul lawmakers Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Mahmut Tanal and Barış Yarkadaş criticized the arrest decision, saying Yücel was arrested for “journalistic activities.” 

“Another journalist has been arrested for his thoughts. The charges against Deniz consist only of his articles, a tweet he sent, and an anecdote he retold. When you look at the articles, Deniz has no intention to praise a terrorist organization or incite people to violence,” Yarkadaş told journalists on Feb. 27. 

Tanrıkulu described the arrest as “a message to all foreign newspapers in Turkey.”

Tanal said the decision is “not lawful.”

“This arrest is an issue that threatens the right to freedom of expression and the right to obtain news. This decision is not lawful, it’s completely political,” he said. 

The German government also condemned the arrest, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticizing the move as “bitter and disappointing” and describing it as “disproportionate.”

“The German government expects that the Turkish judiciary, in its treatment of the Yücel case, takes account of the high value of freedom of the press for every democratic society. We will continue to insist on a fair and legal treatment of Deniz Yücel and hope that he will soon regain his freedom,” Merkel said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was even harsher in his assessment of the case, saying it showed in “glaring light” the difference between the two countries in evaluating freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.

February/28/2017

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