Die Welt newspaper’s Turkey Representative Deniz Yücel was arrested on February 27th, 2017 on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the people to hatred and hostility.”
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor drafted the indictment against journalist Deniz Yücel on February 13th, 2018. In the indictment, Yücel was charged with two counts of “continuously spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Yücel was also charged with “inciting the people to hatred and enmity.” In total, the prosecutor requested Yücel be sentenced between three years, six months to 20 years six months in prison.
Deniz Yücel was detained in Silivri High Security Closed Prison for 367 days, and then released to stand trial without detention. On the day of his release, February 16th, 2018, he went abroad on a private plane.
Later on, it surfaced that indeed the release verdict had been sent to German embassy officials two days in advance and Yücel’s airplane had been booked. As such, there appeared allegations of “secret bargaining” concerning Yücel’s release.
On February 15th, 2018, the then Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany. Prime Minister Yıldırım indicated the following in a statement issued immediately after Yücel’s release:
“Certain problems in Turkish-German relations seem to have been resolved today.”
Yücel’s trial began with the first hearing held on June 28th, 2018 at Istanbul 32. High Criminal Court.
The panel of judges ruled that Yücel’s statement be taken in Germany via a rogatory letter and then sent to the court.
The second hearing of the trial took place on December 20th, 2018. The court ordered the follow-up of the letter sent to Yücel’s overseas address, requesting that his statement be taken there.
The third hearing of the trial took place on April 11th, 2019. In the hearing, it was stated that Yücel’s statement was to be gathered in Berlin on May 10th, 2019, and the trial was adjourned.
In his defense, Yücel explained the rights violations he experienced one by one, and noted the following: “I know that what I say here has no importance for the court and will not create any legal effect in today’s Turkey. You are not the authority which will reach a verdict at the end of this mock trial. Your lofty robes, platforms and offices do not change the fact that you are simple servants jut like the gendarmes who handcuffed me and the prison guards that locked me up. After keeping me in prison for one year as hostage, you remember very well upon whose orders you signed my release warrant.
Turkey has witnessed numerous unlawful arrests in recent history. But mine goes down as the first case of unlawful release. I don’t need to explain the panel of judges this incident, since they were involved in it first hand, following orders.
True, the Turkish government and Erdoğan himself wanted to use me as a hostage in their negotiations. And it is also true that, while in prison, I declared, ‘I will not be part of this dirty bargain.’“
The Constitutional Court ruled on Yücel’s application on June 28th, 2019. In its verdict, the court indicated that Yücel’s “individual freedom and safety” and “freedoms of expression and press” had been violated. In addition, the court ruled that Yücel be paid 25 thousand TL in immaterial compensation and 2,700 TL for judicial expenses.
The fourth hearing of the trial was held on July 16th, 2019. It was seen that Yücel’s defense in Berlin had not reached the court in Turkey, and the trial was adjourned.
The fifth hearing was held on October 17th, 2019. The court ruled to forward the file to the prosecutor’s office for the drafting of the judicial opinion as to the accusations and adjourned the trial.
The prosecutor submitted to the court his opinion as to the accusations prior to the hearing on February 11th, 2020.
In the judicial opinion, the prosecutor had changed the charges leveled against Yücel. While, in the indictment Yücel was charged with “spreading propaganda for FETÖ/PDY and PKK”, in the judicial opinion, his acquittal was requested for this charge. It was claimed that Yücel engaged in “propaganda for PKK/KCK” in his articles published in Die Welt newspaper in 2016.
Whereas the indictment charged Yücel with “continuously spreading propaganda for a terror organization”, the judicial opinion claimed that Yücel committed this crime “continuously” and “via the media”. The prosecutor claimed in the judicial opinion that Yücel also committed the crime of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity, or humiliating the people”.
In the indictment, the prosecutor requested that Yücel be imprisoned for 3 years 6 months to 20 years and 6 months. However, in the judicial opinion, the prosecutor requested a prison term of 2 years 10 months 15 days to 16 years 1 month 15 days.
In the judicial opinion, the prosecutor further charged Deniz Yücel with “Insulting the president” as per Turkish Penal Code Art. 299, claiming that he committed this crime with his article dated November 6th, 2016 and titled “Putschist”, featuring a photo of Erdoğan against the backdrop of the Turkish flag. However, in the indictment, the prosecutor had claimed that with this article, he committed the crime of “spreading propaganda for FETÖ/PDY”. The prosecutor requested that a criminal investigation be launched against Yücel for “insulting the President”.
The sixth hearing of the trial was held on February 13th, 2020. The trial was adjourned to receive the defense against the judicial opinion of the prosecutor.
The trial was supposed to continue with the seventh hearing on April 2nd, 2020. However, the trial was postponed due to measures against the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey.
The eighth hearing of the trial took place on June 24th, 2020. The hearing prosecutor reiterated his judicial opinion as to the accusations presented at the previous hearing. In the defense, Veysel Ok stated that there were minor changes between the indictment against Yücel and the judicial opinion.
Stating that the Constitutional Court confirmed that Yücel’s rights had been violated, Ok said, “The prosecutor has totally ignored the Constitutional Court and its verdict. He has drafted his judicial opinion on the basis of unlawful evidence of his own choosing.”
The court decided to re-examine the case file, taking into account the detailed defense by Veysel Ok.
The ninth hearing of the trial took place on July 16th, 2020. Deniz Yücel did not attend the hearing. Yücel was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok. The hearing prosecutor repeated his judicial opinion as to the accusations that he had previously presented. Lawyer Ok stated that they reiterated their previous defense against the accusations, and asked that the court abide by the verdict of rights violation announced by the Constitutional Court. Ok demanded Yücel’s acquittal.
In its verdict, the court condemned Yücel for “spreading propaganda for an armed terrorist organization.” The court ruled that Yücel committed this crime “continuously” and “via the media”, thus aggravating the sentence against him. As such, Yücel was sentenced to two years, nine months and 22 days in prison on charges of “continuously spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization via the media”.
The court also ordered that as per Article 53 of Turkish Penal Code Yücel be deprived of rights such as “taking public office,” “custodianship” and “becoming a manager in foundations, associations, trade unions, companies, cooperatives and political parties.”
The court acquitted Yücel from the charges of “spreading propaganda for FETÖ/PDY armed terror organization” and “inciting the people to hatred and enmity”.
In the indictment, the prosecutor had charged Deniz Yücel with “spreading propaganda for FETÖ/PDY” with his article dated November 6th, 2016 and titled “Putschist”, featuring a photo of Erdoğan against the backdrop of the Turkish flag. However, the court acquitted Yücel for “spreading propaganda for FETÖ/PDY” but ordered that a criminal investigation be launched against him for “insulting the President” with this article.
The court also ordered that a criminal investigation be initiated against Yücel for “explicitly humiliating the Turkish state” as per Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code. The court based this decision on Yücel’s news articles published on October 26th and 27th, 2016, claiming that in one of the articles Yücel wrote the following: “When the same question was asked to the Turk, he said without hesitation: May the Kurd die before seeing his mother”. The court claimed that in the other article Yücel argued that “A genocide was committed against the Armenians”.
It was further claimed that Yücel, in his defense during the trial, committed the crimes set forth in Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code. As such, the court ordered that a criminal investigation be launched against Yücel, “for denigrating the Turkish state, government, judiciary institutions, and law enforcement agencies”.
The prosecutor objected to the verdict of acquittal from the charge of “publicly inciting people to hatred and enmity”, alleging that the verdict was against the judicial procedures and laws.
Yücel also objected to the court’s verdict.
An appeal review is under way for both objections.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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