Free SpeechPress Freedom

Journalist Deniz Yücel faces up to 2 years in prison for “degrading the Turkish State”

Journalist Deniz Yücel faces up to two years in prison for “degrading the Turkish Nation and State of the Turkish Republic” charges pursuant to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The trial against Germany-based Die Welt correspondent Yücel will begin on July 1, 2021. 

The indictment, which was drafted by the Press Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, reminded that Yücel had previously stood trial before the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” because of his articles published in Die Welt. The court had announced its verdict on July 16, 2020 and acquitted Yücel of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” while sentencing him to 2 years and 9 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The new indictment, which was accepted by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, noted that the court that had tried Yücel filed a criminal complaint on September 11, 2020 and that the Ministry of Justice granted the permission to prosecute journalist Yücel per Article 301 on March 11, 2021.  

Alongside the verdict, the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had ruled to file additional lawsuits against journalist Deniz Yücel for “insulting the President” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” charges based on two separate articles he penned for Die Welt in late 2016. 

An article that included an anecdotal story with the punchline “don’t let the Kurd see their mother before they die” and another including the phrase “genocide committed against Armenians” were considered to be sufficient to file a criminal complaint pursuant to Article 301.

First hearing is scheduled for July 1

The first hearing of the trial will be held on July 1, 2021 before the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The prosecutor demands a prison sentence of up to 2 years for the journalist and requests Yücel’s testimony to be received via letters rogatory from his country of residence.

The indictment also refers to Yücel’s defense of the articles in question, which had been presented as evidence for “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge as part of the previous trial. It was emphasized that Yücel made the following statement in his defense: “How can people be provoked to hatred and hostility, and more importantly, how are they provoked by articles published in German and in Germany? Again, the phrase ‘Armenian genocide’ in one of the articles is considered a crime, yes I did use this phrase, I cannot call the genocide a basketball game, the fact that this historical fact is criminalized won’t change what had happened in the past. Although the majority of the Turkish society denies this fact, everyone is in fact aware of what has been going on.” 

It was mentioned that Yücel testified that the phrase “Do not let the Kurd see their mother” was “cited to criticize the discrimination and inequality faced by Kurdish citizens in Turkey”. 

Prosecutor had appealed his acquittal of “inciting the people to hatred”

After Yücel was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months in prison, the prosecutor appealed the local court’s decision to acquit Yücel of “inciting the people to hatred and animosity” in a petition filed to the appellate court. Arguing that the journalist’s acquittal is “against the procedure and law,” the prosecutor requested the upper court to re-examine this decision while presenting the expressions “Do not let the Kurd see their mother” and “genocide against Armenians” as evidence for this crime. 

“Let the Kurd die without seeing their mother” anecdote and the phrase “Armenian genocide” are evidence 

The prosecution based their request of Yücel’s punishment for “degrading the Turkish state” charges on the journalist’s two articles published in October 2016 in Die Welt newspaper.

Yücel had remarked the following anecdotal joke in his article from October 26, 2016, which was considered to be evidence for the charge “degrading the Turkish state”: “One of the most common jokes among Kurds that describes the attitude of the Turkish State towards themselves goes like this: A Turk and a Kurd both receive death sentences. They ask the Kurd what their final wish is. The Kurd thinks for a short while and says: I love my mother so much, I would like to see her one last time before I die. Then, the Turk is asked the same question to which they respond without hesitation: I would like the Kurd to die without seeing their mother…”

The prosecutor also remarked that the expression “genocide committed against Armenians” from Yücel’s article dated October 27, 2016 as evidence for the imputed crime.