September 9, 2015 / 4:06 PM / 4 years ago

Turkey deports Dutch journalist accused of 'aiding' Kurdish militants

ISTANBUL, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Turkey deported a Dutch journalist on Wednesday after she was detained on suspicion of aiding Kurdish militants while reporting in the country’s strife-hit southeast, her lawyer said.

Frederike Geerdink, who reports for Dutch radio and newspapers and Britain’s Independent, was detained on Saturday as she covered a group of 32 activists protesting renewed violence between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), lawyer Davut Uzunkopru told Reuters.

She was released from custody pending trial. The provincial governor in Hakkari ordered her expulsion under a rule that says foreigners suspected of wrongdoing can be deported, Uzunkopru said, adding she was taken to the airport in the eastern city of Van and would transit through Istanbul to be sent overseas.

“A group of activists acting as human shields entered a security zone and were detained as they were leaving. Geerdink was detained for covering this event,” Uzunkopru said. “We will appeal the decision to deport her.”

Government officials had previously said Geerdink was held for her own safety after she and the activists were discovered inside the zone in Hakkari, scene of heavy fighting.

No one was immediately available at the governor’s office to comment on her case. The state-run Anadolu Agency reported she was to be deported, citing a security source.

PRESS CLAMPDOWN

Concerns over a clampdown on the media during a period of political violence has stirred criticism from rights groups like Freedom House and Amnesty International.

“It’s clear the deportation is an attempt to make sure Frederike is not responsible for critical reporting. But it’s also part of a larger pattern of intimidation of journalists,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

Arrests and deportations of foreign journalists are relatively rare in Turkey yet may be on the rise amid the escalation of fighting between the PKK and security forces.

Earlier this month, two British journalists with Vice News were arrested on terror charges while reporting in Diyarbakir, the southeast’s biggest city. They were then released but their Iraqi assistant remains in prison pending court proceedings.

Nationalists angry over the killing of 31 soldiers and police officers in PKK attacks this week twice stormed the Istanbul offices of Hurriyet, one Turkey’s biggest newspapers.

A surge in violence that began in July has wrecked a 2-1/2 year ceasefire by the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

More than 100 police and soldiers have been killed. Erdogan said “thousands” of PKK fighters have been killed, but it was difficult to independently verify the militants’ death toll.

The opposition accuses Erdogan of reviving the 30-year conflict after a pro-Kurdish party entered parliament and deprived his ruling AK Party of a single-party majority. He calls that “disinformation.” New elections are set for Nov. 1.

Based in Diyarbakir, Geerdink was acquited earlier this year on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda.”

More than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died since the autonomy-seeking PKK first took up arms in 1984. (Editing by Ece Toksabay and)

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