Foreign Office 'concerned' at British Vice News journalists' arrest

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Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury were filming clashes between pro-Kurdish youths and security forces, Vice saidImage source, PA
Image caption,
Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury were filming clashes between pro-Kurdish youths and security forces, Vice said

The Foreign Office has said it is "concerned" about the arrest of two UK journalists and their fixer in Turkey, accused of helping a terrorist group.

Vice News's Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, and Iraqi Mohammed Ismael Rasool, were detained in Diyarbakir, south-east Turkey on Thursday.

Vice News said they had been moved to a "high security prison" five hours away.

Police reportedly questioned them about alleged links to Islamic State and Kurdish militants, charges they deny.

Vice News has condemned the charges as "ridiculous", and a "baseless" attempt by the Turkish authorities to censor their coverage.

The group had been filming clashes between police and youths from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which have erupted in recent weeks, the organisation said.

Turkey has limited journalists' access to the region.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was "concerned" about the arrests, and expected Turkey to uphold EU obligations to protect press freedom.

"Respect for freedom of expression and the right of media to operate without restriction are fundamental in any democratic society," he said.

Image source, Vice News
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Turkey-based Iraqi journalist and translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool was arrested alongside the two Britons

As a state part to the European Convention on Human Rights and UN Declaration of Human Rights, "we would expect the Turkish authorities to uphold the obligations enshrined in those agreements", he said.

Consular officials were in contact with the group, he added.

'Not optimistic'

A lawyer for the group told the BBC they had been detained by police in their hotel, and their cameras and computers had been confiscated.

They were formally charged by a Turkish court with "working on behalf of a terrorist organisation" on Monday. They have denied all charges.

They have until next week to lodge an appeal, but their lawyer said he was "not optimistic" about securing their release.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Clashes between riot police and Kurdish militants have erupted in recent weeks
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
There have also been protests in Ankara against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known as the PKK

Kevin Sutcliffe, Vice's head of news programming in Europe, said they had now been transported to a prison facility more than five hours away from where their legal representation was based, and from the court where they are due to appear.

"This move appears to be a blatant obstruction of the fair legal process that Turkey has repeatedly pledged to uphold," he said.

Vice News said all three men were experienced reporters and had worked extensively abroad.

Mr Hanrahan, from Northampton, and Mr Pendlebury, from Wigan, had worked together on numerous stories, including the migrant crisis in Calais, it said.

Journalist and translator Mr Rasool, who was born in Iraq and is based in Turkey, has worked extensively in the Middle East with the Associated Press, Anatolia Agency, and Al Jazeera, it said.

No further court dates have yet been set.