For the first time since the arrest of the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel in February 2017, the German ambassador Martin Erdmann was able to visit Yücel in an Istanbul prison.
The ambassador was allowed an hour-long unrestricted conversation with the journalist, who, according to the embassy, is doing well and expressed his appreciation for the support from Germany. In the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016, Yücel was arrested in February under the accusation of terrorist propaganda and instigation against the people. The charges appear to be based on an interview that Yücel held in 2015 with a commander of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a paramilitary organisation and nemesis of the Turkish government, as well as an article, in which he questioned the alleged involvement of the Gülen movement in the 2016 coup attempt.
The journalist was further accused by Turkish president Erdogan to be a German spy and a representative of the PKK, allegations which the German foreign ministry rejected as absurd. “I am relieved that Yücel appears to be doing well. This however does not change our pledge for his release”, commented German foreign minister (Außenminister) Sigmar Gabriel.
The Yücel case represents yet another difficult test for German-Turkish relations, which have been under considerable strain over the past years. In a Turkey under Erdogan’s autocratic reign, the disavowal of kemalism seems to be steering the country ever further away from Europe and into authoritarian territory.