Turkey government says it 'had no role' in reporters' arrest

1st September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The Turkish government played no role in the arrest of two British journalists and their Iraqi translator in the southeast of the country and is "not pleased" they are being held, a senior official said Tuesday.

The three, who work for New York-based website Vice News, were on Monday remanded in custody in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir after being charged with "engaging in terror activity" on behalf of the Islamic State extremist group.

Vice News condemned the charges as "baseless" and "alarmingly false", while leading rights groups have called for the immediate release of the reporters.

"This is a legal process and the government plays no role in their arrest," a senior Turkish government official told AFP, asking not to be named.

"It is not a step in discouraging journalists to do their job," the official added. "We are not pleased that they have been arrested."

He said that the initial problems appear to have started when the team allegedly refused to give passwords for their software to Turkish security officials.

The three are currently being held in a high security prison in Diyarbakir, the Dogan news agency reported. Their case should now be sent to trial but they can appeal their arrest.

The jailing of the reporters caused criticism from across the world and amplified concerns about declining press freedoms in Turkey.

The EU's foreign service expressed concern over the arrests, calling for an "independent and transparent" investigation.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: "I believe we have conveyed our concern to the Turkish government authorities."

Vice News, which produces in-depth Internet video reports for the Internet, has named the two British journalists as Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury.

It also said that while sources initially said they were detained for filming without government accreditation, they had then been accused of supporting the IS group.

The team had been visiting the region as the government wages a relentless campaign against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, with several local Kurdish officials arrested and accused of supporting declarations of self rule.

The Turkish government official urged reporters, particularly those working in the restive southeast, to obtain press accreditation with the authorities before setting out.

© 2015 AFP

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