Jailed German journalist Yücel: Isolation is torture

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Journalist Deniz Yücel

Turkey’s crackdown on journalists will go down in history as a “disgrace,” German reporter Deniz Yücel told German daily Die Tageszeitung in a Saturday interview, Deutsche Welle has reported.

Yücel, a Turkish-German dual citizen and a journalist for Germany’s Die Welt newspaper who was detained on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip 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 on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda” and “inciting hatred.”

“Even though there is still no indictment, I do know why I was locked up: Because … I did my job as a journalist properly,” Yücel told Die Tageszeitung.

Yücel’s incarceration has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Berlin, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling on Turkey to release the journalist along with a number of other Germans currently under arrest in the country. “Our demand is very clear: Those people who are in prison should be freed,” she said.

In April Erdoğan said Yücel’s deportation to Germany will never take place as long as he is president and has on many occasions accused Yücel of being a German agent and a representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Erdoğan is believed to be detaining German journalists and human rights defenders to force the deportation from Germany of Turkish asylum seekers, who Erdoğan accuses of having mounted a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

“Isolation is torture,” said the 44-year-old Yücel, who revealed he is being kept in solitary confinement. “Even though I am holding up well, I cannot predict what long-term consequences this is going to have.”

The Erdoğan regime rules through fear, according to Yücel.

“A regime of fear is not directed only against its critics but also against the members of its machinery of repression,” he said. “Law enforcement, judges, senior officials, even government politicians — they are all afraid. Only one person is not,” he added, in an apparent jab at President Erdogan.

“Actually, he is even more afraid than all the others, because he knows what is in store if he loses power. That is why he is subjecting the entire society to his regime of fear,” Yücel added.

The reporter filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after local judges denied his requests for release. The court had asked Ankara to provide its perspective on the case by Oct. 24, but the deadline has been extended twice at Ankara’s request. The final deadline is now set for Nov. 28.

Yücel accused Ankara of “dragging its feet” during the interview and urged the Strasbourg-based court to make a decision quickly.

“I want a fair trial,” Yücel said. “First thing tomorrow would be best.”

Yücel was in October awarded the Leipzig Media Prize along with Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan, who was released last year after 132 days in prison due to links to the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily.

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