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Turkey frees two British reporters held on terror charges

Vice News reporters released but Iraqi translator remains in custody
Judicial sources says British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury were released on Thursday (Twitter/@vicenews)

Turkish authorities on Thursday released two British reporters working for US-based media outlet Vice News who were being held on terror charges in a case that amplified concerns over press freedom in the country.

But their Iraqi translator remained under arrest on charges of assisting the Islamic State (IS) group, legal sources told AFP, quoting a court decision.

The three, along with their driver, were detained late on 27 August in the centre of Kurdish-dominated Diyarbakir by police acting on a tip-off.

They were then remanded in custody by a court in Diyarbakir on Monday on charges of "engaging in terror activity" on behalf of IS. The driver however was released.

Vice News, which produces in-depth Internet video reports, confirmed that British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury had been released following a court hearing in Diyarbakir.

But the group said it was "deeply worried by reports" that their Iraqi translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool had had his appeal for release rejected by the Diyarbakir court.

"Rasool is an experienced journalist and translator who has worked extensively across the Middle East with Vice News, Associated Press, and Al-Jazeera," it said.

"We call on the Turkish authorities for a swift end to this unjust detainment and to grant his immediate release."

It was not immediately clear if the two British reporters will face further legal proceedings or if they are free to leave Turkey.

A Turkish official told the Associated Press that "He did not know if [Hanrahan and Pendleury] would be allowed to leave Turkey or were required to remain in the country pending trial.

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

On Wednesday, the Turkish authorities transferred the three to a jail in the southern city of Adana 500 kilometres (300 miles) from Diyarbakir, creating further controversy.

The official explanation by the court over why they were charged has yet to be published.

The team had been visiting the region as the government wages 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 IS.

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

A Turkish government source, who asked not to be named, told AFP earlier this week that Ankara was "not pleased" over the detention of the journalists.

But the source also accused the Iraqi translator of creating problems by refusing to hand over encryption codes for their computers.

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