Anger mounts over German reporter jailed in Turkey

Published March 1st, 2017 - 09:00 GMT
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/John MacDougall)
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/John MacDougall)

Protests took place across Germany on Tuesday in support of Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist who has been jailed in Turkey, as German politicians warned Ankara that the move has drastically soured relations between the two countries.

In Berlin, around 100 cars and 19 bicycles took part in a procession through the city as part of the #FreeDeniz initiative, according to police.

Protesters then gathered in front of the Turkish embassy to demand Yucel's release. "Freedom for all detained journalists in Turkey!" read some of the placards.

Speakers included German Green Party leader Cem Ozdemir, who called for the release of journalists and democracy campaigners currently detained in Turkey.

In Leipzig, around 50 cars and 30 bicycles took part in a procession to demand Yucel's release, according to police. Participation was at a similar level in car processions in Cologne and Frankfurt. In Munich, only 19 cars and three bicycles took part.

Earlier on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had called the Turkish ambassador into the Foreign Ministry in Berlin for talks on Yucel.

Gabriel said after the talks that the detention of Yucel in Turkish custody - which could last five years before he is released or goes to trial - had placed a massive strain on bilateral relations.

Relations between the two countries "stand right before one of the greatest load tests of the present time," he said.

Yucel, who is the Turkey correspondent for newspaper Die Welt and holds both German and Turkish citizenship, was detained on February 14 and formally arrested 13 days later, drawing criticism in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel described the court order as "bitter and disappointing."

President Joachim Gauck said: "In Germany we can't understand why this attack on the media is necessary."

"What's happening in Turkey at the moment raises considerable doubt on whether Turkey wants to remain governed by the rule of law," he added.

The reporter wrote a story in September on orchestrated cyber harassment of government critics, using emails from the account of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The emails had been published online by Wikileaks and a local Turkish hacker group.

He is accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government accuses of being behind a failed coup d'etat in July 2016.

Both organizations - whose ideologies are virtually poles apart - are designated as terrorist groups in Turkey.

Yucel is also accused of "inciting the public openly to hatred and hostility." He denies all charges.

Sezgin Tanrikulu from Turkey's main opposition bloc in parliament, the People's Republican Party (CHP), was critical of the arrest.

"He was arrested solely for his reporting, this is certainly not a criminal offence," he told dpa, adding that the jailing could serve as a cautionary message to other foreign journalists in Turkey.

Mustafa Yeneroglu, a parliamentarian from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told dpa he was concerned that the use of the propaganda concept against Yucel might be going "too far."

However, he was also critical of Yucel's reporting, saying it was "more activist than journalist" and gave a distorted view of the country and government, noting in particular stories about the government's ongoing conflict with the Kurds.

By Friederike Heine

© 2021 dpa GmbH

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