Turkey frees British Vice News journalists

Iraqi translator still in jail as UK reporters allowed to walk free, Turkish official and their lawyer tell Al Jazeera.

Vice journalists
Philip Pendlebury and Jake Hanrahan were taken into custody in front of their hotel in Diyarbakir [Vice News]

Two Vice News journalists from Britain arrested in Turkey have been released but their Turkey-based Iraqi translator has been kept in prison, a senior Turkish official and one of their lawyers have told Al Jazeera. 

Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, working for the US-based network, along with their translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool and a driver, were taken into custody in front of their hotel in Diyarbakir last Thursday following an anonymous tip to the police.

At a court hearing on Monday in the same province, the three were accused of “deliberately aiding an armed organisation,” as the demand for their release was denied. The driver was released.

“The legal process for the translator is still going on,” the Turkish official said on Thursday.

Ahmet Ay, one of the lawyers representing the team, told Al Jazeera that the journalists were released in the southern province of Adana, where they were recently transferred to from Diyarbakir.

“The prosecutor decided to free the two Vice News journalists, but the translator is still imprisoned,” Ay said.

The Turkish court, which jailed the journalists, has alleged that translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool had encrypted hard drives protected by passwords on his computer, a claim denied by the translator, according to the lawyer.

‘Experts to decide’

Independent experts will decide on the legitimacy of the court allegations that whether Rasool was using encryption software or not, Ay told Al Jazeera.

“It is important to stress that it [the existence of encrypted hard drives] is currently only an allegation,” Ay added.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN International, condemned the arrests, demanding the journalists’ immediate release. 

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A senior official in the Turkish government told Al Jazeera on Tuesday: “This is an unpleasant incident, but the judiciary is moving forward with the investigation independently and, contrary to claims, the government has no role in the proceedings.”

In a statement made on Thursday, Vice News called for Rasool’s release.

“While we are grateful that they have been freed, we are deeply worried by reports that our other VICE News colleague, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, has had his appeal of release rejected by the Turkish government,” the statement said.

“Rasool is an experienced journalist and translator who has worked extensively across the Middle East with VICE News, Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

“We call on the Turkish authorities for a swift end to this unjust detainment and to grant his immediate release.”

Kevin Sutcliffe, Vice News head of news programming for Europe, on Monday described the charges as “baseless and alarmingly false” and said they were “an attempt to intimidate and censor their coverage”.

Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_uras

Source: Al Jazeera