Greece releases Dutch reporter 'taken for smuggler'

Sakir Khader from the Netherlands detained on Monday while reporting on Syrian refugees crossing the border via Turkey.

    Sakir Khader was detained along with a group of about 50 Syrian refugees  [Brandpunt/Al Jazeera]
    Sakir Khader was detained along with a group of about 50 Syrian refugees [Brandpunt/Al Jazeera]

    Dutch journalist Sakir Khader, who was detained on Monday at the Greek-Turkish border, has been released from police custody in Greece.

    Khader, who was reporting on refugees crossing into Greece via Turkey, was handed a suspended five-month prison sentence on Tuesday for entering a restricting military area near the town of Didymoteicho without permission, Greek police told Al Jazeera.

    A reporter with current affairs show Brandpunt, Khader had joined a group of about 50 Syrians as they crossed a small river that demarcates the border between Greece and Turkey.

    Along with the refugees, he was detained by police on charges that he had trespassed into a military zone.

    After his release, Khader arrived in Greece's second-biggest city, Thessaloniki, from where he is expected to fly back to the Netherlands on Wednesday.

    "I have been detained for 30 hours and treated badly," Khader told Dutch broadcaster NOS after the ordeal.

    "I was not allowed to make calls and kept on getting ISIL-related questions," referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant armed group.

    "I was on my way with a group of refugees to [Greece's capital] Athens to see how refugees are now entering Europe," he added.

    "We were met by police at the border and I was mistaken for a smuggler, even though I showed them my press cards."

    Greek police said three others - a German citizen and two Iraqis - were also arrested in the same incident in the Lavara area close to Didymoteicho. They were also released on Tuesday after being given suspended sentences.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Robbert ter Weijden, deputy editor of Brandpunt, claimed the area where Khader had been arrested is not marked as off-limits.

    "We filmed there not so long ago and there is nothing there that shows you're entering a military zone," Ter Weijden told Al Jazeera from the Netherlands.

    "In addition to his Dutch passport, Sakir also carried two Dutch press cards," he said, adding that Greek police at first did not believe he was a Dutch citizen.

    Khader's sister, Diana, told Al Jazeera that the officers detained him because of his Arab appearance.

    "He has a beard and has brown skin. Sakir also has a Palestinian passport but he did not carry it with him when he was detained," she said.

    "It's ironic that this is happening in an (European Union) EU country, while the EU continues to criticise (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan when it comes to press freedom in Turkey," she added.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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