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Deadline looms for Turkey in Yücel case

November 27, 2017

German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel has been imprisoned in Turkey since February. Ankara has until November 28 to make a statement to the European Court of Human Rights. Yücel's lawyer explains what will happen next.

Poeple protest the detention of Deniz Yücel
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. McDougall

The November 28 deadline regarding Deniz Yücel is the third the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has had to set, after Ankara requested extensions on previous ones. Yücel has been held in solitary confinement in Turkey since February 2017. He is accused, without further explanation, of spreading terrorist propaganda, membership in a terrorist organization and inciting the populace. At Yücel's request, the ECHR will decide whether his imprisonment violates his fundamental rights. His lawyer, Veysel Ok, spoke to DW about his client's condition and the status of his court case.

DW: When were you last able to visit Deniz Yücel? How are his health and state of mind?

Veysel Ok: I last visited him on November 21. Physically and psychologically he's doing very well. But he's been in isolation for nine months. He's only allowed to speak to his lawyers, and to his family, for one hour a week. He's completely alone, even on the sports field. He has no contact with anyone. At the moment he's fine, but we're concerned about his health if these conditions continue, because this sort of isolation can eventually become physical and psychological torture.

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Why has Deniz Yücel been held in solitary confinement for so long compared with other journalists who have been arrested in Turkey?

Deniz Yücel
Yücel has been imprisoned in Turkey since FebruaryImage: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Schindler

As far as we know, Deniz Yücel is indeed the only journalist in solitary confinement in Istanbul. We can therefore say, unfortunately, that Deniz is receiving a kind of special treatment. The fact that Deniz is being isolated in this way before appearing in front of a judge is already a punishment in itself. We have already applied repeatedly for Deniz to be released from solitary confinement. We received strange explanations in response, such as: "We're keeping him in solitary confinement for security reasons." For us, there's only one explanation: Deniz is being punished without having been convicted.

There's still no bill of indictment. What's the latest information?

Deniz's other lawyers and I go to the public prosecutor's office every week. But unfortunately we haven't yet been able to set foot in the actual office of the public prosecutor. We haven't even seen the public prosecutor since Deniz was imprisoned. According to Turkish penal law, the public prosecutor not only collects evidence against the accused, but also evidence in his favor. In order to do that, he has to be in contact with the defense. That's how it's done in Turkish law.

In this case, though, we haven't seen the public prosecutor in more than nine months, nor have we spoken to him. When we asked him, in writing, for the reason, we were told that they "didn't speak to lawyers, on principle." That answer doesn't conform with either the right to defense or to the rule of law.

Read more: Not how the rule of law in Turkey should work

The German government is supporting the case Deniz Yücel has brought before the ECHR. It doesn't often happen that another state is a joint plaintiff in a court case in Turkey. How does that influence the situation?

Since Deniz Yücel is a German citizen, we inquired with the ECHR whether the German government could be a joint plaintiff in the case. The ECHR answered affirmatively. The German government will deliver a written statement on the case. Naturally, this is a very important development for us. 

Dilek Yücel speaks to DW about jailed journalist, Deniz

The ECHR's deadline for Turkey to make a statement in the Yücel case expires on November 28. Might it be postponed again?

No, it's unlikely that the ECHR will postpone the deadline again. Because the ECHR has said it will remain November 28, and that the deadline will not be postponed; this was a clear decision.

How will the case proceed after Turkey has handed in its statement on November 28?

Turkey's statement will be passed on to us. We'll check it and write our responses to it. Then the German government will lay out its position. The ECHR will then decide in the case of Deniz Yücel and will make an announcement.

Even though the ECHR has said it will not postpone the deadline, is it possible that Turkey will dispense with a statement on November 28?

Read more: An open letter from Deniz Yücel's wife

Turkey can also dispense with making a statement. It is not legally bound to make one. If Turkey should prefer not to mount a defense in the Deniz Yücel case, the trial at the ECHR will follow the normal procedure, without the Turkish defense.

The interview was conducted by Aram Ekin Duran.

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