German FM accuses Turkey of failing to grant access to jailed journalist Yücel as promised

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has accused the Turkish government of failing to keep a promise to grant consular access to imprisoned German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who was arrested in Turkey on Feb. 27 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of the Turkish energy minister.

Speaking with Der Spiegel on Friday, Gabriel said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım promised that German diplomats would be granted access to Yücel but also said that this has failed to materialize thus far.

“It would be disappointing if we could not rely on the word of the Turkish prime minister,” Gabriel said.

According to Der Spiegel, Yıldırım had promised consular access in a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 4. Gabriel also spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who assured him he would work for the desired access.

Expressing doubts about the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Turkey, Gabriel referred to statements by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Yücel was a terrorist and a spy.

“If Turkey is really a state of law, as Mr. Erdoğan claims, I wonder how he can know before the start of court proceedings and say that Deniz Yücel is a terrorist and a spy,” he added.

Addressing people during a meeting in İstanbul on March 5, Erdoğan had said: “Chancellor [Merkel] told me when she came here… She said, ‘You have a detained journalist [Deniz Yücel]. We would be happy if you release him.’ I told her: ‘He is not a journalist, he is a terrorist.”

While calling Yücel a “German agent” and a “representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK],” Erdoğan also repeated his claims that Yücel had been hiding in the German Consulate General in İstanbul for a month.

Nationwide protests took place in Germany and other European countries after Yücel’s arrest, with demands made for his immediate release.

As of March 1, 2017, Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has confirmed that 200 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for 92 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey. (SCF with March 17, 2017

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