In mid-February, Yucel decided to go to the authorities. But things didn't go as planned. Because of his article, the public prosecutors dealing with the case ordered his arrest on the grounds of "terror propaganda" and "public incitement". After two weeks in police detention, Yucel was taken to Istanbul's high security Silivri Prison – and placed in isolation. In a speech a short time later, Erdogan described him as a German agent and PKK representative. Yucel had become a political football.

With humour and obstinacy

Over the months that followed, Yucel dealt with the stream of new legal impositions, verbal attacks and beatings by prison guards in a remarkably unyielding fashion. With humour and obstinacy he fought to maintain his dignity and a minimum of control over his life. But occasionally his battle went off the rails and he himself admits that he sometimes behaved recklessly and "like a diva" towards those who were fighting his corner.

Yucel's plan to stand as a candidate in the German general election representing the Berlin district of Kreuzberg to gain deputy status is not the only thing that seems bizarre. His idea to sue the prison administration, investigating public prosecutors and Erdogan himself for false imprisonment was somewhat over-the-top. It took a great deal of effort for his lawyers and his wife Dilek to convince him that not only would this exacerbate the situation for everyone, it would also be futile.

Finally, his colleagues and the German diplomats were left totally exasperated by his refusal to accept the offer of freedom negotiated by former chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in February 2018. Instead of accepting the condition that he immediately leave the country, he chose to remain in detention. It was only when "Die Welt" agreed to charter a plane instead of the government, that he finally complied.

In hindsight, the question arises whether it was wise to make such an issue of the case at the highest level at such an early stage. Might Yucel have possibly avoided detention had he gone to the police straightaway? Would Erdogan have taken him hostage if Berlin hadn't stepped in on his behalf so soon? And might the case have been resolved more quickly if it hadn't attracted so much public attention in Germany in the wake of Yucel's arrest?

These are all questions to which we will probably never know the full answer.

Ulrich von Schwerin

© 2019

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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