Report: Jailed journalist Yücel moved out of solitary confinement

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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

Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist who has been jailed in Turkey for the last nine months on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, has been moved out of solitary confinement and into the general prison population, Deutsche Welle reported on Monday.

Yücel, held in isolation in a prison outside Istanbul since his February arrest, is now incarcerated in a single cell that has access to a courtyard during the day and is connected to two other cells, his lawyer was quoted as saying by his employer, German daily Die Welt.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Die Welt that he was delighted at the news. “Something is finally moving,” he said, adding that the German government “will not lessen our efforts” to pressure Turkish authorities to allow Yücel to return home.

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 the Die Tageszeitung daily.

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 President Erdoğan said Yücel’s deportation to Germany would 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.

The reporter filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after local judges denied his requests for release. After several deadline extensions sought by Turkey, the Turkish government told the court last week that it considers Yücel’s pretrial detention to be justified and called for his appeal to be rejected, saying the measures taken against the journalist were “necessary and appropriate.” The court is due to make its ruling soon.

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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