German journalists call on Erdoğan to release jailed colleagues

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People hold placards with hashtag #FREEDENIZ to protest the detantion of German journalist Deniz Yucel in front of Turkish embassy in Berlin on February 28, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

Fourteen German associations representing hundreds of journalists sent an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for the release of their jailed colleagues in Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.

“Protect press freedom and freedom of expression in your country. These freedoms are the basis of democracy,” the German journalists said in their letter, issued on the 44th birthday of Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel, who has been in a Turkish prison for 209 days.

German Federation of Journalists (DJV) President Frank Überall said Turkey has become the biggest prison in the world for journalists. Underlining that about 170 journalists are behind bars in Turkey, Überall said: “What those journalists did were news stories, critical and independent. While journalists are awarded in other countries, there is nothing other than prison that Turkey offers them. This must end.”

Journalists Network’s executive member Max Kuball said they could not have imagined that Turkey would become an unsafe country for their journalism programs.

Yücel, who was detained as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul.

In April Erdoğan said the extradition of Turkish-German journalist Yücel to Germany would never take place as long as he is president.

Erdoğan has on many occasions accused Yücel of being a German agent and a representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Journalist and translator Mesale Tolu was also arrested in İstanbul in April and remains detained with her two-year-old at a woman’s prison.

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