ZEIT: I can't check the numbers at the moment, but there were laws and procedures consistent with the rule of law for everything.
Erdoğan: Why don't you talk about that, that so many people were discharged from their jobs? You are going to publish this and not delete it, right?
ZEIT: Of course. But back to Deniz Yücel. Criminal charges still haven't been filed. He has been in prison – in solitary confinement – for 140 days. It took a long time before he was allowed consular assistance, to which he has a right. And, in Germany, a journalist wouldn’t spend even a single day in jail for any of the activities he is suspected of – the interview with a Kurdish leader, the joke about Kurds and Turks.
Erdoğan: Well, this here isn't Germany. Turkey has its own imperatives and rules. And we are talking about an independent judiciary, an impartial judiciary. And it does what the constitution of the Turkish Republic and its laws require of it.
ZEIT: In my career, I too have interviewed right-wing and left-wing terrorists in addition to people suspected of terrorism. Do you believe that those who do such things as a journalist are terrorists, or supporters of terrorists, themselves?
Erdoğan: In my opinion, such a person is a supporter of terrorists because he knows that this person is a terrorist. What do you want to talk about with a terrorist? And where do you want to publish it? If you publish the thoughts of a terrorist in your publication, what is that? That is the publishing of terrorism itself. By doing so, you are abetting the propaganda of the terrorists. That is how it is seen by courts around the world, because they say: That is aiding and abetting the thoughts of terrorists, and that is a crime.
ZEIT: Do you believe that Turkish courts are independent?
Erdoğan: There are more than 3 million Turkish citizens living in Germany. Why do German officials prevent me, as president of Turkey, from meeting with them and speaking to them? Why don't they allow it? How can you explain it? Where is the freedom of opinion? The freedom of thought? And while you deny a country's head of state the right to speak, PKK members can speak and demonstrate quite comfortably – and we can't even speak by video link, which has been banned by the Constitutional Court. But connections to PKK leaders in Qandil can be easily established. What is fair about that? Even though the PKK is listed as a terror organization in the EU, these people can demonstrate freely in Germany; they can organize meetings and raise money. How can that be?
ZEIT: I am not the spokesperson of the German government. I am a journalist.
Erdoğan: (suddenly changing to informal form of address): Just a moment ago, you spoke about being independent and about how your boss can't tell you what to write. And now you say: "I am not the government spokesperson," and so on. I am a politician. And I am the president of this country. I have received you. If you want to lead an independent interview, then I want to speak openly with you about things I have encountered in Germany. And you have to publish it all openly and clearly. You are only a genuine journalist if you publish it.
ZEIT: Don't worry, it will all be published. But when you ask me why you aren't allowed to make public appearances in Germany, I can't answer for the German government. I can only interpret their position: It is a sign that relations with the Turkish government are currently poor. And I believe that, until the release of Deniz Yücel and the other German journalist, Meşale Tolu, who is imprisoned with her 2-year-old child, these relations will remain poor.
Erdoğan: When such things happen in Germany, officials say that the judiciary is independent. By the same token, our judiciary is independent. At present, charges are being prepared. When they are ready, and if it turns out that they are innocent, the judiciary will release them. But if they are guilty, the judiciary will rule accordingly. If German officials justify their decisions by pointing to Turkish officials, then we are heading for worse times, much worse. That is why it isn't good for the future when we respond to negative events. We are together in NATO. There are more than 3 million Turkish citizens in Germany ...
ZEIT: ... Germany is your most important trading partner ...
Erdoğan: ... the trade volume between our countries stands at more than $35.5 billion. If the German government wishes to sacrifice our relations for a terror organization, that would be a huge mistake. Look, ahead of the referendum (Eds. Note: on the constitutional amendment over the introduction of a presidential system), German parliamentarians threw their complete support behind the No-campaign. They supported it personally. In addition, they insulted me personally. Unfortunately, our friends in the top levels of the German state said nothing about it. We have always wanted to maintain our good relations with Germany, and we still want to. We need each other. We must preserve that. Three million Turks there … that’s not trivial thing.
ZEIT: How can it be preserved?