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Court orders Turkey to pay damages to German-Turkish journalist

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday has ordered Turkey to pay damages in excess of 12,300 euros ($14,000) to a German-Turkish journalist, ruling that his rights were violated by a year-long detention.

Deniz Yucel was detained from 2017-18 over his reporting for conservative German daily Die Welt of Turkey’s attempted military coup in 2016 and the repression that followed.

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“Mr Yucel’s detention amounted to an ‘interference’ with his exercise of his right to freedom of expression” when “there had been no plausible reasons to suspect him of committing an offence,” the court ruled Tuesday.

German Culture Minister Claudia Roth hailed the ruling, saying it “strengthens the protection of journalists.”

“Today is an important day for the freedom of the press in Europe,” her statement said.

Yucel was accused of crimes including propaganda for terrorism and incitement to hatred, especially for his reporting on Turkey’s Kurdish minority and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

He was arrested after reporting that the email account of then energy minister Berat Albayrak had been hacked. Albayrak, later the finance minister, is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law.

The case plunged relations between Ankara and Berlin to new lows, coming alongside detentions of other journalists and activists.

Yucel’s 2018 release helped to ease tensions and Turkey’s constitutional court found in 2019 that his rights had been violated.

“Imposing a measure resulting in deprivation of liberty as in this case, invariably (has) a chilling effect on freedom of expression by intimidating civil society and reducing dissident voices to silence,” the European judges said Tuesday.

Ankara must pay Yucel damages of 12,300 euros and costs of 1,000 euros, the ECHR ordered.

Yucel told AFP it was “pleasing” to have a judgement against Turkey from the court.

“But what’s much more serious is that the court did not contest the infraction against the ban on torture and did not rule that the case was politically motivated,” he said.

Since his return to Germany, Yucel has been convicted in absentia of spreading propaganda for his work on the Kurds and the PKK, and sentenced to almost three years in jail.

He also faces two other cases, one for “slandering the Turkish nation, the Turkish state and its organs” as well as Erdogan himself, and another for libel.

“The Turkish president repeatedly made absurd allegations against me in public,” Yucel added, insisting his lawyers would appeal.

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