Freed German-Turkish journalist says Ankara held him ‘hostage’

German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel is pictured in front of his home after he was released from prison in Istanbul, Turkey, Feb. 16, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 17 February 2018

Freed German-Turkish journalist says Ankara held him ‘hostage’

BERLIN: A German-Turkish journalist who was freed in Turkey after spending more than a year in jail without trial said he was held “hostage” by Ankara and that other journalists are still stuck in Turkish prisons just “for doing their job.”
Deniz Yucel, 44, the Turkey-based correspondent of Die Welt newspaper, landed in Berlin on Friday night hours after being released from a high security prison in Istanbul.
In a video posted on social media during the night Yucel said: “The funny thing is that I still do not know why I was jailed for a year, why I was held hostage for a year.”
Yucel, who has both German and Turkish citizenship, had been accused of writing propaganda in support of terrorism.
He is among more than 100 journalists and writers to be detained in Turkey since the failed July 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Friday, prosecutors presented an indictment seeking up to 18 years in jail for Yucel on charges of “making terror propaganda” and “inciting public hatred and hostility,” but he left the country.
In the video, Yucel also highlighted the plight of other journalists jailed in Turkey, saying they had “done nothing but their job.”
On Friday, an Istanbul court also jailed three prominent Turkish journalists for life on charges of links to the group blamed for the failed coup.
Amnesty International said their sentencing had “drained the joy from celebrations” over Yucel’s release.
“I do not know why I was released today,” said Yucel in the video. “Of course I rejoice (my freedom) but there is a bitter aftertaste.”
Yucel’s surprise release may help repair severely-eroded ties between Ankara and Berlin.
However a number of German citizens or dual nationals — who are seen by Berlin as political hostages — remain in Turkish prisons, among the more than 55,000 people arrested since the failed coup.

US judge blocks Commerce Department order to remove WeChat from app stores

Updated 21 September 2020

US judge blocks Commerce Department order to remove WeChat from app stores

  • WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia says

WASHINGTON: A US judge on Sunday blocked the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.

US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”

On Friday, the Commerce Department had issued a order citing national security grounds to block the app from US app stores owned by Tencent Holding’s and the Justice Department had urged Beeler not to block the order.

Beeler’s preliminary injunction also blocked the Commerce order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the United States that could have degraded the site’s usability for current US users. The US Commerce Department did not immediately comment.

WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

The Justice Department said blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.” But Beeler said “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”

She added “The regulation — which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes — burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest.”

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.

The WeChat Users Alliance that had sued praised the ruling “as an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the US.”

Michael Bien, a lawyer for the users, said “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”