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Turkey convicts German newspaper reporter of propaganda work

The Journalists' Union of Turkey says at least 76 journalists and media sector workers remain behind bars. The Turkish government says the detentions are not based on the journalists' work and that most stand accused of terror-related offenses.

PTI | Istanbul | Updated: 16-07-2020 20:08 IST | Created: 16-07-2020 19:51 IST
Turkey convicts German newspaper reporter of propaganda work
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

A Turkish court convicted a correspondent for Germany's Die Welt newspaper on Thursday of engaging in propaganda in favor of Kurdish rebels and sentenced him in absentia to more than two years and nine months in prison. However, the court acquitted German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel of charges of sedition and propagandizing for the network of a Turkish cleric whom Ankara accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in Turkey four years ago.

The court also called for two new criminal investigations into Yucel for alleged insults to Turkey and to its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yucel was arrested in Istanbul as part of a vast government clampdown in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt and charged with propaganda on behalf terror groups, including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. He was held in pretrial detention for a year and has since returned to Germany.

His case led to a diplomatic crisis with Germany, which accused Turkey of conducting "arbitrary arrests" of German citizens suspected of links to the PKK or the network led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. "This is a political verdict, just as the whole story of my arrest was politically motivated," Yucel wrote in an article published on Die Welt's website shortly after the ruling. He said the decision once again illustrated the "miserable" state of the rule of law in Turkey.

Yucel said, "I was arrested because I did my work as a journalist. I regret nothing about that. And sooner or later, a court will establish that." "Of course an acquittal would have been not just legally mandatory but also a relief," he wrote. "But ultimately I don't care about this verdict -- it also has no practical effects." Yucel's lawyer, Veysel Ok, told the Associated Press that he would appeal the verdict at a higher court. He also complained that the court had ignored a decision by the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest court, that said Yucel's year-long detention was an infringement of his rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists has labeled Turkey one of the world's top jailers of journalists. The Journalists' Union of Turkey says at least 76 journalists and media sector workers remain behind bars.

The Turkish government says the detentions are not based on the journalists' work and that most stand accused of terror-related offenses.


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