Deniz Yücel released from Turkish prison

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The German-Turkish journalist has left the Turkish prison. But a court allowed Yücel to be charged. The prosecutor demands 18 years imprisonment.

Journalist Deniz Yücel has left prison after one year in Turkish custody. His lawyer Veysel Ok tweeted a picture showing the 44-year-old and his wife Dilek Mayatürk in front of the prison.

Previously, a court in Istanbul had ordered Yücel’s release. “And finally there is a release order for my client Deniz Yücel”, his lawyer Ok had told via Twitter. Shortly afterwards, the Foreign Office confirmed the news as well.

“No political interference whatsoever”

According to the state news agency Anadolu, Yücel’s release was ordered after the Istanbul prosecution presented an indictment. In it, it demands between four and 18 years in prison for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “incitement of the people to hatred and hostility”. The court accepted this accusation and thus opened criminal proceedings against Yücel – and at the same time ordered his release for the duration of the proceedings.

This is not an unusual procedure in Turkey: Courts can order the release of suspects from pre-trial detention at the beginning of a trial or even before it. Turkish authorities have said that the release was “carried out entirely in accordance with the principles of the rule of law”. There had been “no political interference whatsoever”.

Yücel can probably leave Turkey

According to the newspaper Die Welt, the judges did not ban Yücel from leaving the country. According to Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, he expects the journalist to leave Turkey soon. “This is my state of knowledge,” said the SPD politician on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

The Yücel case was the most controversial issue in the relationship between the German government and Turkey. On 14 February 2017, Yücel voluntarily surrendered to justice and was taken into custody shortly afterwards on charges of “terror propaganda”. “He was a real agent and terrorist,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in April. There had been no formal charges against the 44-year-old until that day.

Lastly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had pointed out the urgency of the issue after her meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım . Yıldırım had already said before he was hoping for Yücel to be released soon. During a visit to Belgrade in the middle of the week, Foreign Minister Gabriel said: “I am relatively optimistic that we will soon be able to reach a court decision after all”. The SPD politician added: “And I hope, of course, that the outcome will be positive for Deniz Yücel”.

Gabriel thanks Çavuşoğlu and Merkel

Now, in an official statement by his ministry, Gabriel “expressly thanked the Turkish government for its support in speeding up the procedure” and spoke of many direct talks with government representatives in Ankara – “in two cases also with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan”. In particular, the Foreign Minister thanked his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, “who facilitated these contacts and talks and above all the acceleration of the procedure”, as well as the Chancellor “for her confidence in the work of the Federal Foreign Office in this difficult case”. This was “a good day for all of us”.

Five more Germans are currently in Turkish custody for political reasons. Their names are not disclosed for reasons of privacy. The federal government demands their release. The journalist Meşale Tolu was last released in December. Already in October a Turkish court had ordered the release of the German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and had also not imposed an exit ban. Steudtner was able to return to Germany, even if the trial against him continues.

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