Jailed journalist Yücel rejects Turkey-Germany freedom bargain

A German journalist jailed in Turkey without charge for 11 months said he does not want to be released as part of a bargain between Turkey and Germany.

The case of Die Welt’s Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel has led to increased tensions between the two countries, alongside Germany’s granting of asylum to members of the Fethullah Gülen movement wanted in Turkey for involvement in the 2016 coup attempt and a spat over Berlin’s banning of rallies in its cities ahead of last April’s Turkish referendum.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German magazine Der Spiegel this month that his government would not allow arms exports to Turkey, “unless the Yücel issue is settled”. He later said he did not mean to say the two issues were linked.

Germany’s Bild newspaper said in July 2017 that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had offered to swap Yücel with two Turkish army officials who had applied for asylum in Germany.

“I do not want to know my freedom stained with Rheinmetall tanks,” the German press agency DPA quoted Yücel as saying in a letter to his lawyers. Rheinmetall is a German arms maker.

Yücel said he does not want to be part of “the extradition of Gülenist ex-prosecutors or putschist ex-officers” either.

Yücel has been held in a solitary confinement since he was detained in February last year. He was remanded in custody for suspicion of spreading “terrorist propaganda”, but has not been formally charged.

German officials said in December that Turkey had improved Yücel’s conditions in prison. Yücel said his solitary conditions, which he called a “method of torture”, had not ended, but “only slightly relaxed”.