Turkey releases 2 U.K reporters, keep their Iraqi colleague in custody

Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury - seen here - are two of the journalists detained by Turkish authorities (Photo courtesy of Vice)

Two Vice News journalists arrested earlier this week in Turkey's southeast on charges of having links to a terrorist organisation have been released.

Reuters quoted a Turkish government source as saying "The journalists' fixer, an Iraqi national, remained in custody pending investigation." The arrest of two British reporters and their fixer drew condemnation from some rights groups concerned about Turkey's record on press freedom.

Earlier, Turkish authorities have moved to a high-security prison the journalists from U.S.-based news network Vice they detained last week, far away from legal help, the outlet said on Wednesday.

The three journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury - both Britons - and a Turkey-based Iraqi translator and reporter were detained last week on Thursday while reporting from restive Diyarbakir, the main city in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

Authorities accuse them of “aiding a terrorist organization,” named as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Turkey is currently striking the militants over its long Syria border.

But VICE denies the claims, calling them “entirely baseless and absurd.”

Moving the three journalists over five hours away from their lawyers “appears to be a blatant obstruction of the fair legal process that Turkey has repeatedly pledged to uphold. We call on the Turkish government to throw out these ridiculous charges and immediately release our colleagues,” Kevin Sutcliffe, VICE’s head of news programming in Europe said.

Sutcliffe added that prior to their arrest, the journalists were “reporting and documenting the situation” in Diyarbakir, where renewed fighting between security forces and Kurdish rebels has killed scores of people.

VICE said it would spare no efforts in obtaining their release.


Global rights groups Amnesty International condemned the detentions.

The three “should be released immediately unless the authorities can demonstrate credible evidence of criminal acts,” said Amnesty International.

“This is yet another example of the Turkish authorities suppressing the reporting of stories that are embarrassing to them... the allegation of assisting Islamic state is unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre,” said the group’s Turkey Researcher Andrew Gardner.

The three journalists are not the first to be detained in Turkey this year.

In January, a Dutch freelance journalist based in Diyarbakir was briefly arrested and later acquitted of charges of engaging in propaganda in favor of the Kurdish rebel group in a series of social media postings.

Since July, renewed conflict in Turkey’s mostly ethnic Kurdish southeast has seen about 60 soldiers, police and village guards killed. According to state-run media, around 90 Kurdish PKK rebels have also died in clashes with government security forces.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46