Turkey releases Syrian journalist behind ‘banana video’

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A Syrian journalist living in Turkey who caused a stir over a humorous video about claims that local people could not afford to buy bananas while Syrians could will not be deported, his lawyer said on Monday.

Majed Shamaa, a journalist working for Orient News, was detained and taken to a repatriation center in Gaziantep province, near the Syrian border, last week, pending a decision on whether to deport him.

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Lawyer Mehmet Ali Hartavi told Reuters on Monday that Shamaa had been released and would return to Istanbul on Tuesday.

Last month, Syrians in Turkey shared footage of themselves eating bananas after a video on social media showed a Turkish citizen saying he could not afford bananas but Syrians are buying them “by the kilogram.”

The videos outraged many Turks, prompting authorities to detain foreign nationals over “provocative posts” of them eating bananas. The Immigration Directorate said those detained would be deported.

In a video, Shamaa, who has lived in Turkey for seven years, buys bananas in a secretive manner and hides away to eat them without being seen.

Hartavi said Shamaa had not intended to mock anyone with the video and wanted to address Syrians’ problems in a humorous way.

Shamaa had feared being executed if sent back to Syria, prompting rights groups to call on Turkey for his release.

Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey, but sentiment towards them has recently soured. Turkish food prices have soared in recent months and some Turks say the government provides more economic support to migrants.

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