A float depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands ready for the upcoming Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, Germany, February 21, 2017. The signs say 'democracy' and 'freedom of speech.' (Reuters/Ralph Orlowski)
A float depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands ready for the upcoming Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, Germany, February 21, 2017. The signs say 'democracy' and 'freedom of speech.' (Reuters/Ralph Orlowski)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of February 19

Detention of Die Welt Turkey correspondent complicates relations with Germany
The detention of Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, has complicated relations with German officials, the socialist daily Evrensel, the German news website Handelsbatt Global, and the pro-Turkish-government Daily Sabah reported. According to a February 21 Handelsbatt Global report, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım about the German-Turkish dual citizen’s case at the Munich Security Conference over the past weekend.

“[Merkel] said that it is of the utmost importance that Mr. Yücel receive comprehensive support from the German embassy,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told Handelsbatt Global. “The chancellor expressed the federal government’s expectation that Deniz Yücel is treated fairly and in accordance with the law.”

According to the same source, Yıldırım said he did not have information about the issue, that these matters were in the hands of prosecutors, not his. According to a February 22 Evrensel report, former president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said he was worried about Yücel and that the German government should do everything in its power to secure his release.

Daily Sabah, the English-language edition of the pro-government daily newspaper, reported on February 21 that German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said, “We want to do everything in our power in order to support press freedom,” while advocating for Yücel’s release to a group of reporters.

Daily Sabah‘s report retorted that Germany “host[s] terrorists,” an apparent reference to Turkish journalists, academics, and others who have taken refuge in Germany to escape prosecution on terrorism charges in the midst of Turkey’s widening crackdown on dissent, especially since the failed military coup of July 2016.

Journalists from six European newspapers have made a joint call for Yücel’s release, the Turkish service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported. Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Figaro, Italy’s La Repubblica, Belgium’s Le Soir and the Swiss newspapers La Tribune de Geneve and Tages-Anzeiger issued a joint call for the journalist’s release, Deutche Welle reported.

News website censored
The leftist news website sendika.org reported that Turkish authorities have blocked access to their web address from Turkey for the 16th time. As in the past, the website began publishing at a new web address, sendika15.org.

[February 23, 2017]

News editor arrested, beaten: report
Police in the southeastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa on February 9 arrested Aslı Ceren Aslan, news editor for the pro-Kurdish biweekly newspaper Özgür Gelecek, her employer reported yesterday. The newspaper reported that she was reporting on developments along the Syrian border, and particularly in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, Rojava.

Security forces strip-searched Aslan twice, at the Şanlıurfa Police Directorate and Ceylanpınar Gendarmerie Station, and beat her, according to Özgür Gelecek.

A court in Şanlıurfa on February 13 ordered her to be held pending trial on charges of attempting to cross the border illegally, “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” on social media, and “being a member of a [terrorist] organization.” The journalist denied the charges, the report said.

[February 22, 2017]

Prosecutors renew detention of Die Welt‘s Turkey correspondent
A prosecutor in Istanbul yesterday renewed for another week the detention of Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, his employer reported. Police detained the journalist on February 14, but was first reported only on February 17. According to press reports, the journalist is detained as part of an investigation into leaks of emails between Turkey’s energy minister and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.

Police detain, beat newspaper employee: lawyer
Police in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on February 17 detained Hayati Yıldız, a former employee of the stuttered Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat, and beat him in custody, the Dihaber news agency reported on February 19. Yıldız’s lawyer, Gulan Çağın Kaleli, told Dihaber that her client is held at Diyarbakır Police Directorate and that masked special operations police officers had beaten him while transporting him to the directorate. Kaleli told Dihaber that the left side of Yıldız’s face was swollen, that his left eye was black and bloody, and that his left leg was injured. The lawyer said she did not know why her client had been detained.

Magazine employee released
Selahattin Aslan, an employee of the pro-Kurdish political magazine Demokratik Modernite detained at İstanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport on February 14, was released from custody four days later, the news website Gazete Karınca reported. Police questioned Aslan because a witness had identified him as a recruiter for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist group. Police released him after questioning, but banned him from foreign travel, the website reported.

[February 21, 2017]