Turkish authorities have released 27-year-old French journalist Loup Bureau. In jail since July 26, Bureau had been accused of aiding a terrorist organization while reporting on Kurds near the Iraqi border. When he was arrested, Turkish border guards found photographs and interviews with Kurdish militia fighters in his possession.
The Kurdish YPG militia that Bureau was accused of assisting is considered to be an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by Turkish authorities. The PKK, which Ankara, the European Union and the United States have designated as a terrorist group, has been fighting a 30-year insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Bureau’s release came just one day after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with Turkish government officials in Ankara. During that meeting, Le Drian called on Turkey to respect European values and repair relations with Germany and other EU countries.
Le Drian went on to say that France did not want to see a “rupture” in Turkey’s relationship with the EU. He continued by saying, “I have underlined the importance of returning to a more conciliatory exchange concerning [Turkey’s] relations with certain European nations so that we may concentrate efforts on problems that we face.”
On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Turkey was taking “giant steps away from Europe.”
Strained ties between Berlin and Ankara
Relations with Germany, however, remain strained and German nationals, including journalists, are still being held in Turkish cells on charges similar to those leveled against Bureau.
Turkey claims that Germany is harboring people with ties to Kurdish militant groups and others that were involved in last year’s failed coup attempt. Germany, for its part, says that Turkey is failing to respect democratic values and has been angered by the arrest of several German citizens. The German Foreign Ministry said 22 of its citizens have been arrested in Turkey since the failed coup, nine of whom remain behind bars.
Berlin is also very frustrated by Ankara’s refusal to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, a reporter for Germany’s Die Welt newspaper. Yücel, who turned 44 last Sunday, was arrested in February for spreading “terrorist propaganda” and “incitement of the population,” and has been in prison for more than 200 days. Germany’s Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that its general counsel had been denied access to Yücel, and that it had been given no reason for that denial.
A ‘dubious honor’
Last week a group of 14 German media organizations published an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling on him to “protect the freedom of speech” in his country. After Yücel’s arrest, John Dalhuisen of the human rights group Amnesty International said, “Turkey now has the dubious honor of being the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, and free media in the country is in its death throes.”
Speaking alongside Jean-Yves Le Drian Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “We really are not a country that wants to have problems with the European Union or with Europe. But we are also not a country or a people who will bow down to double standards.”
Tsunami of arrests
More than 100 journalists are among the over 50,000 people jailed during the purge that has followed the attempted coup. Nearly three times as many have been detained, suspended or fired from public sector posts.
The latest of those arrested was Celal Celik, the lawyer for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) — Turkey’s main opposition party — who was taken into custody Friday afternoon.