German rights prize for Turkish lawyer for defending journalists

A Turkish lawyer who has defended dozens of journalists will receive a top German justice prize, the Turkish nonprofit Media and Law Studies Association reported on Wednesday.  

Lawyer Veysel Ok is set to receive Thomas Dehler Medal 2019, named after Germany’s first Minister for Justice, who defended Jews in the Nazi era.

“This prize is awarded to me on behalf of everyone who conducts human rights advocacy under difficult circumstances in Turkey. I hope that a future that is respectful to human rights awaits us, a future where such prizes are irrelevant,” Ok said Wednesday in a tweet.

Ok is being honoured for his work advocating for freedom of speech and defending dozens of Turkish journalists prosecuted for their work.

“Human rights lawyer Veysel Ok fights for the rule of law in Turkey like no other,” the Thomas Dehler Foundation said in a statement, adding that Ok, who is set to receive the prize on April 5 in Munich, had become known in Germany for defending Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel.

German-Turkish journalist Yücel was imprisoned in Turkey for just over a year without any formal charges, after his arrest in early 2017 for allegedly making terror propaganda. Human Rights Watch counts more than 175 journalists and media workers imprisoned in Turkey, while Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 nations in its World Press Freedom Index.

“Veysel Ok fights fearlessly and also faces consequences, now he himself has been indictment,” said the Dehler Foundation.

Ok, who also defended Taraf Editor-in Chief Ahmet Altan and columnist Şahin Alpay, is facing charges of denigrating the Turkish judiciary system in connection to an interview he gave in 2015. He continues to represent at least 11 imprisoned journalists, including Nedim Türfent, Ziya Ataman, Salih Turan, and İdris Yılmaz.

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