Turkish journalist rejects ‘dirty deals’ for freedom

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Eleven months into his detention in Turkey, Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish correspondent for the German daily Die Welt, says he rejects any potential trade-off deal between Berlin and Ankara to gain his release.

“I am not available for dirty deals,” Yucel said in an interview with dpa that was conducted in writing through his lawyers. He said he did not wish to be “besmirched by the tank deals of [German military technology group] Rheinmetall or the dealings of any other comrades in arms.”

Nor does he want to be part of an exchange that would involve members of the movement of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.

It should be noted there is no official talk of a deal between the two sides.

Yucel’s remarks referring to an arms deal in connection with his release follow on recent comments to the weekly Der Spiegel by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who noted that Turkey was a NATO partner. “Nevertheless the government has not approved a large number of arms exports. It will also stay that way as long as the Yucel case is not resolved,” Gabriel said at the time.

Gabriel stressed afterwards that he was not indicating that the Berlin government would approve weapons deliveries in response to a release of Yucel. “By no means did I connect the two things,” the minister said, calling the Yucel case the biggest issue in the tense relationship with Ankara.

In the written interview, Yucel said he is doing well. His being kept in isolation – which was “a method of torture” – had not been lifted, but had been relaxed.

“But on the other hand there has been a worsening. At best, I can speak with my wife Dilek for one hour a month without a separation pane. Previously we were only watched from outside. But lately a prison officer has been sitting in the room.”

Asked why no bill of indictment had yet been filed against him, Yucel said: “Either the prosecution office has forgotten me. Or it has not yet received any orders for one.”

To the steadfast insistence by the Turkish government on the independence of the justice system, Yucel says: “This is a lie that the Turkish government is merely an interested observer in my case and in the case of many Turkish colleagues.”

Ankara’s Justice Ministry, in statements to the European Court of Human Rights as well as the Turkish Constitutional Court, has joined in the allegations made in Yucel’s arrest warrant. “The government is not an observer, it is a party, and that is also completely official,” Yucel said.

The journalist also commented on a recent state of emergency decree by which prisoners awaiting trial on charges of terrorism or involvement in the 2016 putsch attempt must appear in court wearing prison uniforms.

“It is crystal clear what this measure is aimed at: public humiliation and prejudgement. I don’t care how some putschist former officer reacts to this. But I guarantee that I will not put on these uniforms,” Yucel said.

The journalist expressed his gratitude for the solidarity triggered by his detention, saying he was “very grateful to everyone” for relieving him of the worry that he would be forgotten. He expressly thanked his newspaper Die Welt, its publishers Axel Springer, the support group #FreeDeniz and colleagues from other news organizations.

“And I am very especially thankful to the many people who write me, even if very few letters are delivered to me,” he said.

Yucel, 44, was arrested last February 14 in Istanbul. On February 27 he was put in pre-trial detention on suspicions of spreading “terrorist propaganda” and “inciting the population.” Since then, he has been in kept in a prison in Silivri, west of Istanbul, with no charges yet formally pressed against him.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Yucel a “German agent” and “terrorist,” while the Berlin government continues to press for his release.

Meeting with German journalists in Antalya last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that “Deniz Yucel is not a politically motivated case.” As to the dispute over the journalist, he said “It poisons our relationship. Am I happy about that? No. But I can’t interfere in the judicial system just to get rid of this problem.”(dpa/NAN)