Date set for Phil’s return

Jake Hanrahan and Phil Pendlebury
Jake Hanrahan and Phil Pendlebury

WIGAN journalist Phil Pendlebury will return home next week after being freed from a Turkish jail.

A week after his arrest on suspicion of links to terrorism, the Whitley cameraman, who turns 29 today, received a welcome birthday present when he and Vice News colleague Jake Hanrahan were told they were to be released yesterday.

And Wigan Today understands that the pair will now be flown back to the UK on next Friday, September 11.

Their release followed a major social media campaign by the Wigan Evening Post, outrage from diplomats and human rights organisations and the intervention of Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, all of whom believe the allegations to have been without foundation against the British newsmen.

The pair were sent to a deportation centre with it initially unsure whether they would be immediately sent home or bailed.

However, the Foreign Office is expected to confirm their return date later.

Despite Phil and Jake’s release though, their Turkey-based Iraqi translator and colleague Mohammed Ismael Rasool remains in custody. One national newspaper has alleged that, acting on a tip-off, investigators had found a type of encryption on his computer that was known also to be used by Islamic State terrorists, although colleagues say he was using standard encryption found on any British mobile or computer.

The delighted Pendlebury family now face an anxious wait for the former St John Fisher High School pupil’s home-coming.

Sister Alex tweeted today tweeted a the first photo they had seen of her brother.

The three Vice News employees were arrested on August 27 as they filmed clashes between police and demonstrators in the strife-torn Turkish region of Diyarbakir. They were told they were under suspicion of collaborating either with IS or their sworn enemies PKK.

There have been several court appearances during which objections to the arrests were lodged by Vice News’s legal team and then the men were suddenly and inconveniently moved to a high security prison five hours’ drive from the courts, supposedly on the pretext that the original jail’s being full. It looked possible that they could be caught up in legal red tape and incarcerated for weeks, but yesterday afternoon came word of a breakthrough.

A spokesman for their employer said: “Vice News has received confirmation from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that two of our journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury have been released from a Turkish prison. “While we are grateful that they have been freed, we are deeply worried by reports that our other VICE News colleague, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, has had his appeal of release rejected by the Turkish government. Rasool is an experienced journalist and translator who has worked extensively across the Middle East with VICE News, Associated Press, and Al Jazeera.

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

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now revised travel recommendations that no British nationals travel to that region for all but essential reasons.

An FCO spokesman said: “Two British journalists arrested in Diyarbakır on 27 August have now been transferred to a Migration Department Deportation Centre in Adana.

“Our consular officials in Turkey are liaising with the Turkish authorities and in contact with the journalists and their lawyer.”