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Turkish-German journalist briefly detained during family visit to Turkey

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Tuncay Özdamar, an editor for German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (WDR), was briefly detained in September in Ankara, where he had travelled to visit his ailing mother, due to tweets he posted in 2018, WDR reported on Wednesday.

Özdamar, who has had German citizenship for 20 years, said during an interview with WDR that his detention at the airport in Ankara was a “shock” for him, that he has been traveling to Turkey frequently these days and never imagined he would end up behind bars.

He said he was taken into custody at the airport and that all his belongings including his mobile phone, money and watch were seized by the police. Özdamar said he spent that night in a detention center in Ankara and taken to İstanbul the following day, where he appeared before a judge. He was subsequently released after testifying in court.

Özdamar is being investigated on charges of “targeting public officials involved in the fight against terrorism” due to his tweets in 2018, according to the interview.

He said he is accused of targeting an İstanbul judge named Murat Erten in his tweets; however, he said he never tweeted anything about the judge.

Özdamar said his tweets in 2018 concerned journalists Murat Sabuncu and Bağış Erten, who were fired by the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper following a change in the daily’s management. The journalist said he wanted to show solidarity with his colleagues.

He said Sabuncu’s first name and Bağış’s last name were somehow combined, making it appear that he was targeting judge Murat Erten.

Özdamar said he does not know whether his detention has anything to do with his journalistic activities in Germany but that he would avoid traveling to Turkey until the investigation into him is concluded.

WDR said it sent questions about the available documents to the public prosecutor’s office in İstanbul, which is conducting the investigation of Özdamar, in addition to making attempts to contact the public prosecutor specifically named in the investigation documents through several authorities in the Turkish judicial system and in the Turkish foreign ministry.

“There were no answers to our questions about the process by the time we went to press. In particular, we wanted to know if Özdamar was targeted by the authorities because investigators simply searched Twitter for the words ‘Murat’ and ‘Erten’ – the investigation documents strongly suggest this,” said WDR.

Turkish journalist Can Dündar, who lives in exile in Germany, tweeted about Özdamar’s detention on X, formerly known as Twitter, describing it as an act of “intimidation.”

In a similar development in August, Gökay Akbulut, a member of the German parliament from the Left Party, was detained upon her arrival at an airport in southern Turkey due to her social media posts but was released after the German government intervened.

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