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Spain frees journalist arrested on Turkish warrant

Spain has freed a journalist whose arrest provoked widespread condemnation from human rights organisations, announcing Friday that he would not be extradited to Turkey as requested by Ankara.

Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalcin was arrested on August 3 at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on a warrant issued by Turkey, which accuses him of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and having links to an unspecified “terror group”.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday the government had decided not to pursue the extradition process.

“The Passive Extradition Act and the Convention on the Status of Refugees stipulates that extradition cannot be granted when the person has been granted refugee status,” Mendez de Vigo said.

“The Swedish authorities have twice granted asylum to Yalcin, who had refugee status until obtaining Swedish nationality in 2016.”

A judge freed Yalcin on Thursday.

Yalcin’s release comes as alarm grows over press freedom in Turkey, with dozens of journalists detained and foreign reporters also caught up in a crackdown under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s coup attempt.

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Yalcin, who writes for Odak, a left-wing online magazine critical of the government, should be tried for insulting Erdogan and making “propaganda” for a “terrorist group”.

Turkey ranks 155 on Reporters Without Borders’ latest press freedom index, below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo, after dropping four places from its 2016 ranking.