Turkish authorities on Monday arrested a reporter for a prominent German newspaper on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence, Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Baris Yarkadas told reporters outside the courthouse.
Authorities initially detained Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for the Die Welt newspaper on Feb. 14 after he reported on emails that a leftist hacker collective had purportedly obtained from the private account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdogan.
On Monday, an Istanbul court ordered Yucel, a dual citizen of Turkey and Germany, jailed pending trial, a witness at the court told Reuters.
He is the first German reporter to be held in a widespread crackdown that has followed the failed July 15 coup in Turkey and frequently targeted the media.
“Deniz Yucel’s arrest is a blow to freedom of thought,” Yakardas said. “Deniz Yucel did not run away. Deniz Yucel went to the police station with his lawyers and personally surrendered to officers despite a search warrant. Deniz Yucel’s arrest based on these charges is unacceptable. Deniz Yucel must be released as soon as possible.”
More than 100,000 people have been fired or suspended from Turkey’s police, military, civil service and private sector since the failed coup and tens of thousands arrested.
Ankara says the measures are necessary given the security threats it faces.
Tough spot for German chancellor
But Turkey’s allies, including Germany, fear President Erdog is using the purges as a pretext to curtail dissent. Relations between the NATO allies have been strained by the coup, but Germany needs Turkey to keep playing its part in a deal to stop the flow of migrants into Europe.
Yucel’s arrest could also put German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position less than seven months before what promises to be a tightly contested election in September.
In a statement, Merkel criticized the move as “bitter and disappointing” and called it “disproportionate.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, was even more harsh in his assessment of the case, saying it showed in “glaring light” the differences in the two countries in evaluating freedom of press and freedom of opinion.