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German reporter Deniz Yücel, in prison interview, says Erdogan is 'afraid'

German journalist Deniz Yücel accused Ankara of "dragging its feet" in his first interview from a prison cell in Turkey. He called for a speedy and fair trial and described his prolonged isolation as torture.

Turkey's crackdown against journalists will go down in history as a "disgrace," German reporter Deniz Yücel told the German daily Die Tageszeitung in an interview published on Saturday.

Yücel had worked as a Turkish correspondent for Die Welt newspaper when he was detained by the police for "terrorist propaganda" and "inciting hatred" in February this year. In the interview, which was conducted with the help of Yücel's lawyers, the journalist detailed the terms of his imprisonment in the high-security Turkish prison of Silivri, west of Istanbul.

"Even though there is still no indictment, I do know why I was locked up: Because […] I did my job as a journalist properly," Yücel told Die Tageszeitung.

Yücel was born to a migrant Turkish family in Germany and holds both Turkish and German citizenship. His fate is a subject of a diplomatic row between Berlin and Ankara, with Germany repeatedly demanding the journalist's release.

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Ankara has ignored those calls, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally slamming Yücel as a "terrorist agent" and a "German spy."

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Turkey recently set free a German activist but continues to imprison nine other German nationals, including other writers. The Turkish government has also used international arrest warrants to seek the detention of individuals it deems threats to national security.

'Regime of fear'

The 44-year-old reporter said prison authorities are keeping him in solitary confinement.

"Isolation is torture," he said in the interview. "Even though I am holding up well, I cannot predict what long-term consequences this is going to have."

At the same time, he said that the current regime in Turkey ruled through fear and that even his prison guards were apparently afraid of making a wrong move.

"A regime of fear is not directed only against its critics but also against the members of its machinery of repression," he said. "Law enforcement, judges, senior officials, even government politicians — they are all afraid. Only one person is not," he added, in an apparent stab at Turkish strongman President Erdogan.

"Actually, he is even more afraid than all the others, because he knows what is in store if he loses power. That is why he is subjecting the entire society to his regime of fear," Yücel added.

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'First thing tomorrow'

After Yücel's requests for release were denied by Turkish judges, the reporter filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg-based body had asked Ankara to provide its perspective on the case by October 24, but the deadline has been extended twice at the request of Ankara. The court has now set the final deadline for November 28.

In the interview, Yücel accused Ankara of "dragging its feet" and urged the European court to make its decision quickly.

"I would really like to see if the Turkish government would follow their decision about my release," he said.

"I want a fair trial," Yücel added. "First thing tomorrow would be best."

dj/sms (Reuters, dpa, epd, AFP)

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