Turkey releases Iraqi VICE News journalist from jail

Turkey releases Iraqi VICE News journalist from jail
2 min read
05 January, 2016
Mohammed Rasool, the VICE News correspondent who was arrested by Turkish authorities with two of his colleagues late last year, has been released on bail, the has news organisation announced.
Rasool spent more than four months in detention after filming in south-east Turkey [Facebook]
The authorities in southeast Turkey on Tuesday freed an Iraqi translator and journalist working for US-based website Vice News, after 131 days in detention - but he still faces trial.

No bail payment was made, but he is apparently required to report to his local police station twice a week and cannot leave the country.

Mohammed Ismael Rasool was detained on August 27 in the centre of the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, along with two British reporters from VICE News, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury.

Rasool is now looking forward to being reunited with his family, friends and colleagues

The team had been filming in the restive region, where the Turkish government is waging a relentless campaign against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, with several local Kurdish officials arrested and accused of supporting declarations of self-rule.

Vice News said that, while sources initially said they were detained for filming without government accreditation, they had then been accused of supporting the Islamic State group.

Their arrest had prompted expressions of concern from Britain, the European Union and the United States.

The three were remanded in custody on "terror charges", but the two British journalists were released on September 3 and deported.

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

In October, VICE blacked out all its online properties for two hours to highlight Rasool's plight.

Rasool was held for more than four months without any date for a trial being fixed, adding to concerns over press freedoms in Turkey under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey was the fifth-worst imprisoner of journalists last year, with 14 in jail as of December 1. Only Iran, Eritrea, China and Egypt were worse.

Judicial sources told AFP in Diyarbakir that Rasool still faced trial and was not allowed to leave Turkish territory until the process has been completed.

Following Rasool's release, VICE News released a statement saying that they were "pleased to confirm" he had been released on bail.

"Rasool is now looking forward to being reunited with his family, friends and colleagues, who ask for his privacy to be respected during this time," the statement added.

The case of the VICE reporters has amplified concerns over the difficulties in reporting in and on southeast Turkey.