Turkish-German journalist indicted on charges of insulting Erdoğan in 2016 article

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A new case has been filed against former Turkey representative for the German Die Welt newspaper Deniz Yücel on charges of “insulting the president” due to referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “putschist” in a 2016 article, local media reported on Monday.

The lawsuit was merged with a previous action launched in May, demanding a prison sentence of between six months and two years for Yücel, a German with Turkish roots, on charges of openly denigrating the Turkish nation and Turkish state under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK).

The indictment against Yücel was drafted by Yahya Fatih Özcan, an İstanbul prosecutor, who argued that the journalist’s “putschist Erdoğan” statement in the November 6, 2016 article amounted to an insult of the president due to “damaging to his honor and dignity.”

On July 15, 2016, Turkey survived a military coup attempt that killed 251 people. Immediately after the abortive putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Erdoğan pinned the blame on the faith-based Gülen movement, which strongly denied having any role in it.

However, Erdoğan, calling the coup attempt “a gift from God,” and the AKP initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing real and alleged members of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

The first hearing in the trial of the merged cases will take place on July 1 at the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance. Yücel, who lives in Germany, is expected to be tried in absentia.

In July 2020 the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of Peace handed down a prison sentence of two years, nine months, 22 days to Yücel, who was tried in absentia, on charges of “disseminating terrorist propaganda,” while he was acquitted of the charges of provoking hatred and enmity among the public.

İstanbul prosecutors were seeking up to 15 years for the journalist, who was detained and arrested in February 2017. He remained imprisoned until February 2018, which led to a rift between the Turkish and German governments, with Berlin using diplomatic channels to secure his release.

After his release he returned to Germany, where he published a book recounting his detention in Turkey, and in May 2019 he testified before a Berlin court, revealing the torture and ill-treatment he was exposed to during his detention. Yücel said he holds Erdoğan personally responsible for the abuse he endured.

Turkey has been described by observers as one of the biggest jailers of journalists in the world. The country ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.

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