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Legal back-and-forth continues in trial of of 2 Vice News reporters in Turkey

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The trial of two reporters from US-based Vice News in which they face charges of “aiding a terrorist organization” due to their journalistic work in Turkey’s restive southeast in 2015 continued in a Diyarbakır court on Wednesday in its ninth year without a ruling, the Media and Law Association (MLSA) reported.

Vice News reporter Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury, both British citizens, were charged by a Turkish prosecutor after they were detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır while covering violent clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in September 2015. They were in the area to shoot a documentary at the height of a renewed conflict between the military and the PKK when claims of excessive police violence, police killings of civilians and ill-treatment of detainees were rampant.

The journalists were deported on September 3, 2015 after spending a week in pre-trial detention at a prison in southern Adana province.

The 19th hearing in the trial of the journalists, who are being tried in absentia, was held at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on Wednesday. The journalists were represented by their lawyer, Törehan Büyüksoy.

Büyüksoy told the court that his clients’ defense statements, which they gave to a court in the UK, were not accurately and fully translated into Turkish, leading to inconsistencies. He asked the court to ensure that the defense statements are translated into Turkish by experts in the English language and the Turkish judicial system.

The court accepted the lawyer’s request and ordered the re-translation of the journalists’ defense statements by a new expert. When the new translations are received by the court, the court will send the file to the prosecutor for their opinion.

The trial was adjourned again, until June 26.

It has not been made clear which terrorist organization the journalists are accused of aiding. Journalists working in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast generally face accusations related to the PKK, but there were claims in 2015 that Hanrahan and Pendlebury were accused of working with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) based on a tipoff from an anonymous witness.

Their lawyer at the time, Ahmet Ay, told the Guardian newspaper that the accusations linking the journalists to ISIL were completely baseless and that the journalists were not asked anything about ISIL during their interrogation.

The journalists’ detention and indictment caused indignation and outrage among journalists and international human rights groups.

The conflict between the Turkish military and the PKK flared up again in 2015, with each side accusing the other of having ended a ceasefire brokered in 2012 as part of a peace process.

There was limited coverage at the time of the conflict in the Turkish media, which is strictly controlled by the government.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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