A court in southeastern Turkey has ordered two British journalists and their translator remanded to custody, ahead of an eventual trial on charges of engaging in terror activity.
Monday’s court ruling in the city of Diyarbakir orders the reporting crew, who work for the U.S. Internet-based VICE News, back to jail two days after their arrests near the borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. The French news agency says a fourth suspect, a driver, was freed.
By late Monday, there were no additional details about evidence allegedly linking the detainees to Islamic State jihadists.
Security sources said correspondent Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury were arrested Friday for reporting without proper government accreditation, as they filmed fighting between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants. The charges of aiding Islamic State militants were later added, but authorities provided no details.
In a statement Sunday, Amnesty International called the allegations “bizarre.”
“It is completely proper that journalists should cover this important story,” the rights group said. It also called the charges “unsubstantiated [and] outrageous.” The Europe offices of the Committee to Protect Journalists called for their immediate release, as did the global media advocacy group PEN International.
“Vice News condemns in the strongest possible terms the Turkish government’s attempts to silence our reporters who have been providing vital coverage from the region,” Kevin Sutcliffe, Vice’s head of news programming for Europe, said in a statement. “We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends.”
The news team had been reporting from the region as government forces press their campaign against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. The militant group, founded in the late 1970s, launched a fight for regional autonomy in 1984.
Analysts say more than 12,000 Turkish military and civilian casualties have been tallied since then, while the military reported 32,000 “terrorists” neutralized as of 2008. Fighting later waned and all but stopped in 2013, when peace talks began.
Hostilities erupted anew in late July when the PKK scrapped the truce after Turkish warplanes bombed their positions in Iraq as PKK fighters battled Islamic State forces.