İstanbul – Sixth hearing of the trial where Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel faces “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity” charges was held at İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court today. The prosecutor presented their final opinion as to the accusations and demanded up to 16 years in prison for journalist Deniz Yücel.
The prosecutor’s opinion was submitted to the court on February 11, 2020. The prosecutor claimed that Yücel had committed “terrorist propaganda” for PKK in various news stories he penned for Die Welt in 2016 and demanded up to 13 years in prison.
The prosecutor also claimed that Yücel “incited the public to hatred and animosity” in one of his articles and requested an additional 3-year sentence for this charge.
The prosecutor demanded Yücel’s acquittal for “terrorist propaganda on behalf of FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) charges,” claiming that the elements of this crime were not constituted.
Additional lawsuit for “insulting Erdoğan” requested
It was also requested that another lawsuit filed against Deniz Yücel for “insulting the President” charges because of an article from November 2016 where Yücel wrote the caption “coup perpetrator” under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s photo.
Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok represented him in court today. International Press Institute (IPI) Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, Reporters without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and representatives from the German Consulate in Istanbul were among those who monitored the hearing.
Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok requested additional time for the defense against prosecution’s opinion. The court granted time and adjourned the trial until April 2, 2020.
Constitutional Court had ruled that Yücel’s freedom of expression was violated
In May 28, 2019 Turkish Constitutional Court had ruled that Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel’s year-long detention had violated his right to personal security and liberty, as well as his right to freedom of expression. Yücel’s application was filed by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Co-Director Veysel Ok.
This decision of Turkey’s top court confirmed that interviewing an organization’s leader or criticizing Erdoğan cannot be grounds for prosecution, further stating that interviewing Cemil Bayık and asking questions about the nature of the coup attempt can’t constitute a crime in any way.
The Court had stated that they were not convinced by the allegations that journalist Yücel seemed to be approving of the interviewee’s opinions and that he asked questions in a way that would lead to terrorist propaganda.
The ruling insisted that articles that were presented as evidence in Yücel’s arrest warrant should be evaluated as political criticism, which are thus protected under freedom of expression, stating that these articles cannot be used as strong evidence of a committed crime.
Interview with PKK executives was grounds for Yücel’s arrest
Deniz Yücel was initially taken into custody about the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who was the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources at the time. Later, the court decided to arrest Yücel on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” for an interview he conducted with PKK executive Cemal Bayık.