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Erdogan responsible for abuse in Turkish jail, Welt journalist says

Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist, has said that he holds Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responsible for the physical and psychological violence that he experienced during his imprisonment in Turkey, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Friday.

Former Turkey correspondent for the Germany daily Die Welt, Yucel on Friday testified before a Berlin district court as part of an ongoing trial against him in Turkey, where prosecutors have recommended an 18-year prison sentence for him.

He was released pending trial in Turkey on charges that include “making propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “public incitement to hatred or hostility.”

According to the court testimony seen by DW, the journalist holds Erdogan personally responsible for the torture he experienced in the Silivri Prison, where he was held in pre-trial detention for almost a year.

Yucel, who spoke in Turkish while reading out his defense statement, told DW that he chose to do so in order to prevent “deliberate mistakes being made in the translation.”

He spoke about the abuse he suffered in prison for the first time since he was released from Turkish custody on February 16, 2018.

Yucel said he waited so as not to further aggravate the already strained relationship that Turkey had with Germany because he suspected that this was the reason behind the maltreatment in prison.

Torture in Silivri

The German-Turkish journalist said he faced torture for three days in Silivri Prison, where he was held from February 2017 until February 2018.

Elaborating on the abuse he experienced in jail, Yucel said that a group of prison guards continuously insulted and threatened him, using the same words articulated by Erdogan against him. According to the journalist’s testimony, the guards called him a “traitor to the fatherland” as well as a “German agent.”

He added that the same guards repeatedly told him to walk with his head bowed down and to greet the trash can.

Yucel elaborated on physical torture meted out to him for the first time when the same guards came to his cell to carry out a search.

He told the court that he received blows to his feet, chest, back and the back of his head and was forced to throw away any newspaper clippings he had.

“Those newspaper clippings were the only things that I had with me that carried sentimental value,” the journalist explained.

Yucel mentioned another incident where he was punched hard in the face by one of the guards in prison’s library while another one threatened him, saying: “What are the Germans paying you to betray your fatherland? Speak or I’ll rip out your tongue.”

The journalist said that even though the extent of the violence was not too great, the maltreatment he suffered in jail amounted to torture without a doubt.

“It was less about inflicting physical pain than about humiliating and intimidating me. Perhaps they wanted to provoke a reaction out of me. But even so, this was a case of torture,” he stressed.

He said the abuse “was carried out in an organized way that sought to systematically violate the dignity of the person being abused.”

The journalist claimed that the torture he faced in Silivri Prison “possibly directly instigated by the Turkish president or someone in his inner circle, but in any case was the result of the smear campaign that he started and [for which Erdogan] bears responsibility for.”

Erdogan previously called Yucel a “member of the PKK,” a “German agent,” and a “terrorist.”

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish region southeast of Turkey for more than three decades, regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey.

Yucel also commented on his columns’ and news reports’ being considered as elements of a crime.

“I will not humiliate myself here by explaining why the job I did was in accordance with the general standards of journalism. I will not disrespect the effort I made with my honor and conscience and act as if I have to defend my news reports and columns before the law,” he stated.

“Journalism is not a crime, it’s a crime to regard it as one,” the journalist highlighted.

Yucel’s detention has triggered a serious conflict between Ankara and Berlin, with the latter using diplomatic means for the journalist’s release.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has detained thousands of rights activists, journalists and lawyers since a military coup attempt targeting him took place in July 2016.

A war of words between Turkey and Germany see journalists from the latter country denied accreditation to work

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