After more than one month in detention without charge, French photojournalist Mathias Depardon was finally released and deported by Turkish authorities on the evening of Friday, June 9.
Big relief! Mathias Depardon officially out. https://t.co/OFAWE0Po8i
— Nate Schenkkan (@nateschenkkan) June 9, 2017
Depardon was on assignment for National Geographic in the town of Hasankeyf in southeastern Turkey when he was arrested on May 8. According to Reporters without Borders, the Turkish government has accused Depardon of creating “propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The allegations may be a reference to pictures the photographer took of members of the Kurdish guerrilla organization, the PKK, which previously appeared in the French media. The United States and Turkey have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.
While being detained, Depardon undertook a week-long hunger strike, stopping only after the French diplomatic mission to Turkey was allowed to visit him. Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron also personally brought up Depardon’s case with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a meeting between the two in Brussels on May 25. Depardon has been based in Turkey for five years.
Depardon’s release and return to France was a rare piece of good news amidst nearly daily arrests and prosecution of Turkish and foreign journalists, rights workers, and even clergy members. An American Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has been accused of membership in the Gulen Movement, which the Turkish government has labelled FETO (Fethullah [Gulen] Terrorist Organisation), has been jailed since last October. He remains behind bars even though multiple members of the U.S. government, including President Donald Trump, have called for his release.
Ahmet Şık, an outspoken critic of the Gulen movement and one of more than 100 journalists and media workers currently being detained in Turkey, has similarly been accused of membership in FETO. The inherent contradictions of accusing, respectively, a Christian clergy member and a long time secular critic of Gulen of membership in the Islamic religious movement seems lost on Turkish officials.
On Tuesday, June 5, Taner Kılıç, the chair of Amnesty International Turkey, was also arrested and charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” namely FETO, joining the ranks of Brunson, Şık, and countless others. Kılıç was one of twenty-two lawyers arrested Tuesday in the Turkish city of Izmir. He is currently in pre-trial detention. Amnesty International released a statement pledging to “campaign tirelessly for Taner’s release, and continue its work in and on Turkey undeterred.”
Unlike Depardon and Brunson, Kılıç and Şık do not have the advantage of being foreign nationals with a powerful, ostensibly allied, government advocating for their release. The fact that even foreign nationals are being held for weeks and months without a formal hearing or conviction does not bode well for the two men and point to them both facing long stretches of prison time.