A young French reporter who has been held on terror charges in Turkey for the last seven weeks is set to be freed, his lawyers said Friday.
The news came a day after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had pressed Turkish leaders on a visit to Ankara to free 27-year-old journalism student Loup Bureau.
“We have the satisfaction to announce that he is being freed,” Bureau’s lawyers said, while Christophe Deloire, of Reporters Without Borders, said on Twitter that Bureau’s release was “imminent” and he would return to Paris on Saturday.
While there was no confirmation of his release from Turkish officials, his French lawyer Martin Pradel said that he would be “expelled from Turkey shortly”.
“The judge has ordered his release and expulsion from Turkey,” the journalist’s Turkish lawyer Mesut Gerez told AFP.
“He has been handed over to the police and sent to a deportation centre. He will be deported this evening or tomorrow,” he added.
Bureau’s father, Loic Bureau, said he was “very very happy” and had been able to speak to his son on the phone for about thirty minutes.
“He seemed surprised and relieved, but also cautious,” he said, adding that he and his wife would probably be reunited with their son on Saturday evening in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the news, saying on Twitter, “I rejoice at the freeing of Loup Bureau. It is a great relief for us all.”
He had previously sought to secure the reporter’s release in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who also met Le Drian on Thursday.
Bureau, a journalism student who has worked with the television channels TV5 and Arte as well as the website Slate, was detained in late July at the Habur border post in southeastern Sirnak province on the Iraqi-Turkish border.
He was charged with membership of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group which Ankara says is a terrorist organisation.
Washington, however, sees the group as the main force leading the fight against Islamic State jihadists on the ground in Syria.
– Press freedom fears –
Pradel said Bureau’s release would be “a huge relief for his family and friends.”
“The court in Sirnak has not however dropped the case and we have to keep up the fight,” he added.
Bureau’s arrest had further heightened alarm over press freedom in Turkey under Erdogan, with foreign reporters also caught up in a huge crackdown following a failed coup in July 2016.
Turkey ranks 155th on the latest world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, falling below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In June, Ankara released and deported French photojournalist Mathias Depardon who was held for a month on charges of supporting terror groups. He was also detained in Turkey’s restive southeast.
Germany’s Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel was imprisoned in February and has been personally accused by Erdogan of working as a “terror agent”.
According to the P24 press freedom website, there are 171 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s coup attempt.
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