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Turkey jails 6 Turkish journalists for life, releases German reporter

(CNN)A Turkish court sentenced six journalists and other media professionals to life in prison Friday, Turkey's Anadolu state news agency reported, roughly an hour after another court freed a German-Turkish reporter who had been behind bars for a year.

The six were all sentenced for being associated with the movement of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak received life sentences on the charge of being informed about the coup attempt beforehand. Their sentence officially means they must serve 40 years.

They were also sentenced for attempting to disrupt constitutional order, as were Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, who worked at Gulen-linked newspapers and a television station.

"This is a dark day for press freedom and for justice in Turkey and sets a chilling precedent for scores of other journalists facing trials on similar trumped-up terrorism charges," said Gauri van Gulik, Europe director for Amnesty International, of the sentencing.

Freed journalist returns to Germany

Earlier Friday, a separate court in Istanbul freed Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for Germany's Die Welt newspaper, according to the German government.
The German-Turkish journalist was accused of spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that the Turkish government has branded a terrorist organization. He was also accused of inciting violence in support of Gulen's movement.
Yucel was detained February 14, 2017, and has always denied the accusations. His case had become a cause of serious friction between Berlin and Ankara.
A few hours after the release order, his attorney, Veysel Ok, tweeted a photo of Yucel and his wife outside the Istanbul prison.
Yucel arrived in Berlin late Friday, posting a message to the official Free Deniz Twitter page.
Yucel's charges have not been dropped, and his trial will go ahead as planned. The Istanbul state prosecutor is calling for Yucel to be jailed for up to 18 years, Anadolu reported.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was pleased that Yucel had been released from jail and thanked those who had worked on his behalf.
"I am pleased for him, I am pleased for his wife and his family who had to endure a tough year of separation," she said. "I want to thank the civil society in Germany who did not forget Deniz Yucel and others who are in prison."

Jailed journalist remains 'patient' despite 150 days of solitary, wife says
The order to release Yucel came a day after Merkel met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Berlin.
"It seems that some problems that occurred in the past in Turkish-German relations are solved today," Yildirim said Friday. "We will take reciprocal steps to develop relations. We expect them not to tolerate terror organizations and not to allow activities that target our unity."

Yucel was one of a number of German nationals imprisoned in Turkey last year as a diplomatic row between the two countries intensified.
Relations have since improved, and two high-profile prisoners — human rights activist Peter Steudtner and journalist Mesale Tolu — were released late last year, although judicial proceedings against them are continuing.
Five German nationals remain in custody in Turkey, "whom we must assume are held for political allegations," according to the German Foreign Office.

Protesters gather outside the Turkish Embassy in Berlin in February 2017 to call for Yucel's release.

Friday's announcement coincided with a two-day visit to Turkey by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who held meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Yucel's wife, Dilek Mayaturk, moved from Munich to Istanbul last year to be closer to her husband and tweeted regularly about his imprisonment.
As Friday's news broke, she tweeted in Turkish: "At last!!! At last!!! At last!! Deniz is free!"

Ulf Poschardt, editor-in-chief of Die Welt, spoke of the delight among Yucel's colleagues. "This is the most wonderful day in my career as a journalist. There are tears and cries of joy in our newsroom," he said in a TV interview.
Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned without trial in Turkey since the failed coup, according to Reporters Without Borders. The country is ranked 155 out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.


Opinion: Deniz Yücel's release is no reason for complacency

Despite the celebrations over the release of German journalist Deniz Yücel, we must not forget that well over 100 journalists are still in prison in Turkey, writes DW's editor-in-chief Ines Pohl.

I've known Deniz for many years. I worked with him almost every day for six years. I fought with him over cover stories and the best headlines. It wasn't always a fun, but it was always intense. And I learned a lot from his devotion. Deniz is an excellent, fearless and truly original journalist. He can describe situations wonderfully in his very own almost poetic, sensitive style. But he also knows how to raise a ruckus, get attention and keep it.

The power of publicity

Many of his friends share these skills. They were the ones who did not stop beating on the publicity drum, organizing solidarity concerts and parades of cars all over the country. The hashtag #FreeDeniz was everywhere, all the time.

Deniz Yücel embraces his wife (Veysel Ok)

Celebrate Yücel's release — but don't forget the others still in jail

It was also the power of publicity that kept German politicians from shirking their responsibility. Apparently, the night before Yücel's release, negotiations were held at the highest political level. Details of the deal are not yet known.

After a year and two days, Deniz Yücel has finally released from prison. When I heard about it, I couldn't hold back the tears. This free spirit was forced to spend so many hours of the day and night behind bars and in solitary confinement!

There is no happy ending

When the first pictures of Deniz embracing his beloved Dilek outdoors were published, many people must have gasped. The pain is written deeply in Deniz' face. Like a drowning man, he clings to the woman he married during his imprisonment. Is this a touching story with a happy ending?

Not really. Despite all the joy and relief over his release, we must not forget one thing: there are still more than 100 journalists being held in detention in Turkey.

Anyone who hoped that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would start an era of detente with Yücel's release was sadly mistaken.

The news about Deniz Yücel had just come out when Erdogan's judges handed down life sentences for six other Turkish journalists. Deniz hadn't even left prison yet.

The fight must not end

The fact that they are not German citizens plays an important role for Germany's diplomats, but this does not mean civil society can give up.

It was moving, perhaps even surprising, to see how many people campaigned over the last year for Deniz' release. This fight must not end now that he is free. There are over 300 journalists in prisons around the world, some of whom are being tortured because they have promoted freedom of the press.

Despite all the joy and relief, we still must remember that as long as even one journalist is behind bars for being critical, we must constantly remind people about it and call on politicians to stand up and fight for that journalist's release. I am quite sure that this is exactly what Deniz wants now.


A timeline of the year Deniz Yücel spent in Erdogan's prisons in Turkey

Attacker tries to stab Honduran journalist during live broadcast

New  York, February 16, 2018–Honduran authorities should take swift action  to identify and bring to justice the man who attempted to stab  television reporter César Omar Silva during a live broadcast, the  Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

An unidentified man on February 13  approached Silva while he was reporting outside the Mario Mendoza  Psychiatric Hospital in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and lunged  at the reporter with a knife, though did not succeed in stabbing him,  according to news reports and video footage of the attack.  Following the attack, the man circled Silva for another minute before  walking away up the street. Silva, who hosts a local news program on the  Une TV channel, was not physically harmed in the incident.

The attempted attack on Silva occurred amid ongoing  political unrest in Honduras following the reelection of President Juan  Orlando Hernández and a subsequent security crackdown, according to reports.

Silva told CPJ he filed a police report and reported  the incident to the national Human Rights Attorney General's office and  human rights civil society groups.

"This brazen attack against a journalist on live  television is a frightening example of the dangers journalists in  Honduras face simply for doing their job," said CPJ's Executive Director  Joel Simon. "Honduran authorities must use the available evidence to  swiftly identify César Silva's attacker and ensure he is brought to  justice."

The national police's investigative unit and the National Human Rights Commission did not answer CPJ's calls seeking comment.

Silva told CPJ the man originally approached him and  his cameraman a few minutes before 9 a.m., while they were setting up  for his daily program "Caminando con Silva" ("Walking with Silva"),  which features Silva walking through Tegucigalpa neighborhoods and  conducting man-on-the-street interviews on topics of national interest.

The man verbally accosted Silva, criticizing his  reporting and threatening him for several minutes before walking away.  He returned about five minutes later, after the live broadcast had  started, then attacked Silva with a knife he had concealed under an  article of clothing. In the video, the man can be heard saying "I'm  going to kill you" and cursing at Silva.

Silva said that a nearby police officer and a  hospital employee both told the attacker to leave him alone, but the  police officer did not try to detain the man or take away his weapon  before the attacker escaped.

Silva has faced threats and harassment dating back to  the coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 when he  covered human rights violations by military police and state security  forces. In December 2009, three armed men kidnapped him from a taxi and  took him to a clandestine detention center, where he was held and  tortured for 24 hours, according to news reports and the journalist.

Since December 2009, security officials have  repeatedly denied Silva access to government buildings and verbally  threatened him in response to his reporting, he told CPJ.

In January 2015, the security head for the president  of the National Congress denied Silva access to the congressional  building to cover a session on military policy, according to Amnesty International.  Most recently, on January 18, 2018, security guards again prevented him  from entering the building to cover the final session of the 2014-2018  Congress, according to Guatemalan press freedom organization CERIGUA.

Honduran journalists have experienced increased  aggression and harassment from both security forces and civilians in the  wake of violent protests following contested presidential elections in  November 2017, according to local human rights groups.


Hungary's right-wing government plans law allowing it to ban organisations that help immigrants

Viktor Orban's government unveils policy ahead of country's general election

The right-wing populist Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has outlined plans for a new law that would give it the power to ban civil society groups that help immigrants and refugees.

The measure is one of the planks in Mr Orban’s drive against US financier George Soros, who has been the target of a state-backed national hate campaign because of his funding of liberal projects.

The law defines organisations that helps migrants as any NGOs that “sponsor, organise or otherwise support a third-country national’s entry or stay in Hungary via a safe third country in order to ensure international protection”.

Hungary’s interior minister, the equivalent of its Home Secretary, would have to grant approval and a permit for any such organisation to operate, and could prevent them from doing any work on “national security” grounds.

The definition in the law covers organisations that do legal work, campaign, distributing information or recruiting volunteers with the aim of helping foreign nationals.

The new law would also require NGOs that did gain approval to pay a special 25 per cent tax on any international funding aimed at helping migrants and refugees.

Under the bill, activists for NGOs could also be issued with restraining orders to prevent them from going near Hungary’s borders, in order to hinder their work.

International NGOs condemned the new bill, which was introduced to the Hungarian Parliament ahead of elections to be held on 8 April this year.

“This law would give the government carte blanche to target NGOs on the flimsiest of pretexts,” Gauri van Gulik, Europe director of Amnesty International said.

“In reality, these proposals have nothing to do with protecting national security or borders, and everything with muzzling those who work to assist people in need and dare to raise their voices.

“We call on Hungary to withdraw this bill, and it is high time for EU leaders, who have watched on the sidelines as Hungary crossed red line after red line, to finally take concrete action to stop this assault on civil society.”

Mr Orban has campaigned heavily on the issue of immigration to Hungary and claimed that the law will prevent the giving up of “national independence” and hinder politicians who he claimed wanted to “transform Hungary into an immigrant country”.

Opinion polls shows Fidesz, Mr Orban’s party, is on course to win a huge victory in the election. A rolling average of opinion polls ahead of the contest shows his party on over 50 per cent of the vote, which would give them a majority. Polling in second place on 17 per cent is Jobbik, an extreme far-right party, while the centre-left social democrats trial in third position on around 12 per cent.

At least part of the new law would require a two-thirds majority in the parliament to pass because it affects the “basic law” of the country’s constitution.


Why the conspiracy theories about George Soros don’t stack up
Orbán claims Hungary is last bastion against 'Islamisation' of Europe

Source: ONTD_Political

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