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Three French journalists temporarily detained at border, their equipment confiscated

(BIANET/IFEX) - Three French journalists were arrested and temporarily detained by Turkish authorities as they attempted to enter northern Iraq through the Habur border gate at around 9:00 a.m. (local time) on 24 October 2007. When one of the journalists refused to hand over his camera, he was treated violently.

After filming and recording interviews in Hakkari, Sirnak and several other places, and writing articles about the situation in southeastern Turkey, journalists Guillaume Perrier, Estelle Vigoureux and Marc de Banville sought to cross the border into northern Iraq. When they did not allow officials to view their recordings, they were arrested and held for 30 hours, until the Silopi prosecution ordered their release. When Banville resisted attempts to confiscate his camera, he was treated roughly and his glasses were broken.

The journalists were held at a gendarmerie unit attached to Silopi. Vigoureux and Banville were asked by the prosecution who they were recording for. The journalists refused to sign papers on the grounds that they were not written in their language.

Perrier, of the "Le Monde" newspaper, was released on the afternoon of 25 October "with an apology". Vigoureux and Banville, who work for the Capa Agency and who had been accused of "recording in a military area without permission", were release a few hours later. Their driver was released in the evening of the same day.

The journalists were provided legal support from the Legal Aid Office. Their camera and cassettes were examined by the Gendarmerie Crime Laboratory and confiscated as "instruments of crime".

BIANET condemns the army's abuse of power in this case. In a temporary security zone, it is excessive to prevent journalists from filming even a passing military convoy. Moreover, not all of Hakkari, Sirnak and Siirt provinces, where three journalists filmed, are designated temporary security zones. The website of the Turkish military's General Staff only gives very general coordinates in indicating such areas, making it impossible to know which districts or villages are included or excluded. It is not legitimate to accuse people of entering a military security zone or of making "unauthorised recordings in a military zone" when these areas are not clearly indicated.

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