The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the nearly three-year prison sentence given to journalist Deniz Yücel in Turkey on terror propaganda charges.
A court in Istanbul convicted Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, in absentia of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and sentenced him to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison. Yücel was acquitted on a separate charge of “inciting people to hatred and hostility”.
Yücel was arrested and subsequently placed in pre-trial detention on February 27, 2017. The allegations relate to several articles he published in 2016 about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the movement headed by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey’s government blames for the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen condemned the verdict.
“The conviction of Deniz Yücel is a clear act of punishment for critical journalism”, Griffen said. “Today’s ruling caps a meandering sham trial in which Yücel’s basic constitutional rights were repeatedly violated. Unfortunately, Yücel’s case was merely the latest in a long line of politically motivated prosecutions of journalists in Turkey, where the suppression of press freedom continues unabated.”
The indictment against Yücel was not completed by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor until nearly a year later, on February 13, 2018. Prosecutors requested a prison sentence from 3 years 6 months to 20 years 6 months.
Yücel was released shortly thereafter, on February 16, 2018 after a year behind bars, 10 months of which were spent isolation. On the same day of his release, Yücel left Turkey. From then on, he has been tried in absentia.
On June 28, 2019, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that Yücel’s ‘’right to liberty and security of person’’ and ‘’freedom of expression and press’’ had been violated. In addition, the court awarded him 25K TL in moral compensation and 2K 700 TL in judicial expenses.
Despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling, prosecutors did not drop the case. The prosecutor submitted his deliberation on the merits of the case on February 11, 2020, adding to the indictment that the alleged crimes were committed through press and broadcasting. As the accusation against Yücel now changed slightly, prosecutors requested 2 years 10 months 15 days to 16 years 1 month and 15 days in prison. The hearing today was the 9th in the case.
In addition to the main ruling, the İstanbul 32 High Criminal Court today also filed additional charges against Yücel for “insulting the President” & “denigrating the Turkish nation” in accordance with Turkish Criminal Code Article 299 and Article 301.