A Turkish court on Thursday convicted a correspondent for Germany’s Die Welt newspaper of engaging in propaganda in favor of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and sentenced him in absentia to more than two years, nine months in prison, The Associated Press reported.
However, the court acquitted German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel of charges of sedition and propagandizing for the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in Turkey four years ago.
The court also called for two new criminal investigations into Yücel for alleged insults to Turkey and to its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Yücel was arrested in Istanbul on February 14, 2017 as part of a vast government clampdown in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt and charged with propaganda on behalf of terror groups, including the PKK. He was held in pretrial detention for a year and has since returned to Germany.
His case led to a diplomatic crisis with Germany, which accused Turkey of conducting “arbitrary arrests” of German citizens suspected of links to the PKK or the movement inspired by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
“This is a political verdict, just as the whole story of my arrest was politically motivated,” Yücel wrote in an article published on Die Welt’s website shortly after the ruling. He said the decision once again illustrated the “miserable” state of the rule of law in Turkey.
“I was arrested because I did my work as a journalist. I regret nothing about that. And sooner or later, a court will establish that,” he said.
“Of course an acquittal would have been not just legally mandatory but also a relief,” he wrote. “But ultimately I don’t care about this verdict — it also has no practical effects.”
Yücel’s lawyer, Veysel Ok, told The Associated Press that he would appeal the verdict at a higher court. He also complained that the court had ignored a decision by the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court, that said Yücel’s year-long detention was an infringement of his rights.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has labeled Turkey one of the world’s top jailers of journalists. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom database, a total of 177 journalists remain behind the bars and 168 journalists are wanted by Turkish authorities.
The Turkish government says the detentions are not based on the journalists’ work and that most stand accused of terror-related offenses.