The US State Department has called on Turkey to uphold due process in the case of a VICE News journalist who has been jailed in Turkey since August 27.
Mohammed Ismael Rasool was detained along with two other VICE News journalists while they were reporting in southeastern Turkey. The three men were charged with working for a terrorist organization — a totally false charge with absolutely no basis — and jailed. The two other journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, both from the UK, were released September 3. Rasool, however, remains in custody.
"We urge Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions vis-a-vis Mr. Rasool's case uphold universal democratic values, including obviously due process, freedom of expression, and access to media and information," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday. "And you know as we said before media and due process are key elements of every healthy democracy, and in fact are enshrined in Turkey's constitution, in its OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] commitments as well as in Turkey's international human rights obligations. I would just underscore our desire to see Mr. Rasool's case held up to international legal standards as well as human rights standards."
Turkish authorities claimed an informant had accused the VICE team of supporting an Islamic State (IS) group. Later lawyers for Rasool, a 24-year-old Iraqi Kurd, said prosecutors accused the three journalists of carrying out propaganda for the PKK, a sworn IS enemy.
Rasool is one of 23 journalists currently in jail in Turkey, according to Turkey's Contemporary Journalists' Association. The recent Kurdish conflict has imposed curfews and travel bans that have made reporting more restricted. Many of those journalists are working for pro-Kurdish media and have been accused of having links to the Kurdish rebels. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called the media crackdown a crisis that is blocking international coverage of the Kurdish conflict.
Earlier this week, a Belgian television network at which Rasool had also worked in the past was threatened after one of its reporters asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan why Rasool was still being held.
VICE News has called on the Turkish authorities to continue their positive course of action in freeing Jake and Philip by releasing Rasool immediately.
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