Protesters in Berlin call for the release of Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel, February 28, 2017. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 5

Erdoğan says jailed Die Welt correspondent ‘German agent,’ Kurdish separatist
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 3 said that Deniz Yücel, the Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt and a dual citizen of Germany and Turkey jailed in Turkey since February 14, was a “German agent” and a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization, Reuters reported.

“It isn’t because a correspondent of Die Welt was arrested…It is because this person hid in the German embassy as a member of the PKK and a German agent for one month. When we told them to hand him over to be tried, they refused,” the president told an awards ceremony in Istanbul, according to Reuters.

The news agency quoted a German diplomat as calling the allegation that Yücel was a “German agent” “absurd.”

The news website Haberdar reported yesterday that Şafak Pavey, a member of parliament with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was allowed to visit the journalist, who is held in isolation.

The lawmaker carried a message from Yücel, saying he had been detained as part of investigations into the leak of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails, was kept in custody for being a member of the Hizmet network, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization and blames for the failed July 2016 military coup, and was sent to prison for being a member of the PKK.

Railing against German authorities’ decision to cancel some rallies of diaspora Turks in favor of a referendum on amendments to the Turkish constitution giving the president more power, Erdoğan said, “Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy, and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of the Nazi period.”

“If I want to come to Germany, I will, and if you don’t let me in through your doors, if you don’t let me speak, then I will make the world rise to its feet,” Reuters also reported.

Court orders editor jailed pending trial
Istanbul’s Fourth Court of Penal Peace ordered Nur Ener, news editor for the conservative daily newspaper Yeni Asya, jailed pending trial on suspicion she was a member of the Hizmet network, based on an anonymous tip that she had the Bylock app on her phone, her employer reported today. According to media reports, members of the network used the app in an attempt to communicate securely. Police detained Ener three days before the court’s order to keep her in custody, Yeni Asya reported. She denied having any ties to the Hizmet network, or FETÖ as the Turkish government calls it, or having used the app, her employer reported.

Newspaper publisher, distributor detained
Security forces detained Ramazan Ölçer, former publisher of the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, from his home in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır, the news website Gazete Karınca reported on March 4. The reasons for his detention were not immediately clear. The government on October 29 used emergency powers to order the newspaper and 14 other media outlets closed by decree. Serdar Kale, a former distributor of Azadiya Welat and the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem, was also detained in Diyarbakır, Gazete Karınca reported. Police raided Özgür Gündem‘s office and following a court order shuttering the newspaper in August 2016.

Police detain reporter
Police on March 4 raided the home of Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu, a journalist for the news website Dihaber, and took the reporter into custody, his employer reported. The reason for the detention was not immediately clear. Topaloğlu recently reported on serious earthquake damage to buildings built by the government in the southeastern city of Adıyaman.

Turkish regulator asks French satellite company to drop Kurdish channels
Turkey’s official Anadolu News Agency reported on March 4 that Turkey’s broadcast regulator, the RTÜK, is negotiating with the French satellite company Eutelsat to stop carrying the signals of News Channel TV, Ronahi TV, and Sterk TV. Turkish regulators banned the channels in Turkey, saying they were affiliated with the PKK, but satellite dish owners can still watch them via Eutelsat’s Hotbird constellation of satellites.

Man who shot at newspaper office says he was drunk
Police said a man who fired a pistol at the building housing the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet on March 3 told them he was “highly intoxicated, and had fired shots in the air without a particular target in mind,” Cumhuriyet reported. The man said he “did not mean to attack a person or institution,” according to a police statement.

Cumhuriyet‘s jailed editor in chief, Murat Sabuncu, on March 3 passed a message through visitors, saying, “Bullets [and] prison do not intimidate us. We will continue to write the truth.”

[March 6, 2017]