The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Deniz Yücel, the Turkey representative of the German newspaper Die Welt, on charges of “spreading PKK / KCK and FETÖ propaganda” and “inciting hatred and animosity among the people.” On February 14, 2017, Yücel was summoned to the Istanbul Police Department to give a statement and was taken into custody within the scope of the investigation numbered 2018/2873. On February 27, 2017, he was arrested on the orders of the Istanbul Ninth Criminal Court of Peace.
Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, drafted the indictment numbered 2018/7041 with case number 2018/1395 against Deniz Yücel on February 13, 2018. The prosecutor’s office translated Yücel’s eight-page German news article in Die Welt, and claimed that expressions such as “a senior PKK commander” and “Öcalan, the commander-in-chief of PKK” were tantamount to “praising a terrorist organization and its ideology.”
The prosecutor’s office also described an interview by Yücel with PKK leader Cemil Bayık as a criminal offense in this scope, as well as his news article on Hacer Aslan, who was burnt to death in a basement during police operations in Cizre in 2016. Furthermore, Deniz Yücel was accused of spreading propaganda for the FETÖ / PDY armed terrorist organization because of his coverage of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Moreover, journalist Yücel was charged with “inciting hatred and animosity among the people” for the humorous anecdote recounted by an interviewee, and for the expression “Armenian genocide” in a news article of his. The prosecutor cited further evidence for the charges in the indictment, such as a book by Fethullah Gülen found in Deniz Yücel’s apartment, and his HTS (Historical Traffic Search) records.
According to these records, between 2014 and 2017, journalist Yücel had met with 59 persons registered in the police database for alleged affiliation with PKK / KCK, and this was cited as ground for the charges against him. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court and a lawsuit was filed against Deniz Yücel. After the indictment was accepted, journalist Deniz Yücel was released by court order on February 16, 2018, following approximately one year in prison.
The first hearing of the case was held on June 28, 2018. Since Deniz Yücel had returned to Germany, he did not attend the hearing. During the first hearing followed by observers from the German Consulate General in Istanbul and the German media, Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok argued that the indictment was actually drafted by law enforcement officers, and was based on illegally obtained documents and records.
Lawyer Ok stated that an individual who was not member of a terrorist organization was being presented as such, and demanded that the police report be removed from the case file since it was not legal. He also requested that his client be acquitted immediately. The court rejected the lawyer’s demands for the removal of the police report from the file, and immediate acquittal, and ordered that Deniz Yücel’s statement be taken via letter of request (that the statement be taken where the defendant is and then sent to the court).
The 7th hearing of the case could not be held on 2 April 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 24 June 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.