FAMILY of freed Wigan camerman Phil Pendlebury are preparing for a tearful re-union with him at the end of this week.
September 11 has been set as the date when the 29-year-old can leave Turkey, having spent seven nights in a prison and several more in a deportation centre alongside Vice News colleague Jake Hanrahan.
This is a huge relief to Philip’s family and friends whose determination to raise awareness of this case have helped to ensure that he and Jake have been releasedLisa Nandy MP
The pair, along with Iraqi translator Mohammed Rasool, were arrested last Thursday week while filming fighting between Turkish police and demonstrators from the Kurdish rights group the PKK in the troubled Diyarbakir region of the country.
They were accused of having terrorist links, apparently because officers received an anonymous tip-off about them and then said that the encryption device on Rasool’s phone was similar to that used by some Islamic State militants.
The men appeared several times in court as evidence was discussed and objections lodged and mid-week they were suddenly moved from a prison near court to a high-security facility five hours’ drive away.
Given precedent for arrests in Turkey on such charges and this move to one of the country’s toughest jails, supporters of the men were fearing that they could be detained for many weeks or months.
But the sheer international outcry at what happened - with many claiming there was not a shred of evidence against the trio and that this was a blow to freedom of speech from a country supposedly an ally of the West which has designs on joining the EU - may have helped to hasten the authorities’ hands.
Vice News had two legal teams working on the case, the Foreign Office made diplomatic overtures and human rights groups described the allegations as “outrageous and baseless.”
And it made a lot of headlines, not only in Britain and Turkey but around the world while several social media campaigns, including one by the Wigan Evening Post and its wigantoday website, were launched condemning the arrests and calling for the three men’s immediate release.
Phil’s sister Alex also made an impassioned appeal for his liberation.
And soon after Phil and Jake were released from jail and sent to a Migration Department Deportation Centre in Adana where they were pictured after undergoing a medical.
However the courts have refused to grant bail to colleague Mohammed, much to the anger of Vice News.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy played a part in the behind-the-scenes work to secure the men’s release.
She said today: “This is a huge relief to Philip’s family and friends whose determination to raise awareness of this case have helped to ensure that he and Jake have been released.
“The support from the public, charities and the Foreign Office has been unwavering since they were detained.”