Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist who was jailed in Turkey from February 2017 to February 2018, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried to barter Turkish generals who had sought asylum in Germany for his release, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Wednesday.
“Erdoğan thought to himself, ‘Since this man is so important for Germany, we should get something in return,” he told DW in an interview. “He has the mindset of a gangster.”
Yücel said it was former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who ultimately convinced Erdoğan that such a swap would not be possible.
The journalist also claimed that Erdoğan later tried to negotiate the purchase of German weapons on which the German government recently imposed restrictions due to Turkey’s worsening human rights record.
“However, according to open sources and my repeated inquiries with the German government, no such negotiations took place,” he added.
Yücel recently published a book in which he recounted his near-year-long detention in Turkey. The book’s title, “Ajanterörist,” which is a combination of the words “spy” and “terrorist” in Turkish, is a label Erdoğan coined to describe him.
“It was really curious. According to the pro-government Sabah daily, I was arrested as a ‘spy-terrorist’ and was released as ‘Deniz Yücel, the Turkey correspondent of the Die Welt newspaper,” Yücel told DW, adding that both his arrest and release were unlawful.
“What I went through show that there is nothing Erdoğan is not willing to do in order to survive in power,” Yücel said. “Because he knows that what awaits him when he steps down is not retirement but Silivri Prison, where I was and many friends still are imprisoned. That is why he will never let go of his power.”
In May of this year the German-Turkish journalist testified before a Berlin court where he revealed the physical and psychological violence he was subjected to during his detention, holding Erdoğan personally responsible for the torture he experienced.
His detention caused a rift between the Turkish and German governments, with Berlin using diplomatic channels for his release.
A press freedom report by the Council of Europe recently qualified Turkey as the world’s largest jailer of journalists.
The country was also ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.