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September 22, 2017

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BBC Turkish says reporter freed in southeast Turkey

ISTANBUL -- Turkish authorities on Sunday freed a reporter for the BBC's Turkish language service in the southeast of the country after holding her for a day without explanation, the broadcaster said.

Hatice Kamer was detained on Saturday while reporting on a mine disaster in the Kurdish-dominated Siirt region of the southeast that left 11 miners dead and five missing, BBC Turkce (BBC Turkish) said in a statement on its website.

It said she had been held overnight at the Siirt police headquarters and was in a good condition. BBC Turkce added that there was still no explanation over why Kamer had been detained.

But German broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), which Kamer also works for, said it had learnt from the journalist that she "is accused of having supported the terrorist organisation PKK through her reporting".

"She was told that she would have to stand trial," said WDR after speaking to Kamer over the phone.

The 39-year-old journalist said however that there was no evidence to back the charges, added the German broadcaster.

BBC Turkce said Kamer had been looking to talk to relatives of the miners at the copper mine, which collapsed late on November 17. Rescue efforts are still continuing at the mine.

Kamer is a board member for the association of journalists in southeast Turkey.

Dozens of journalists have been detained in Turkey under the state of emergency in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.

Critics say the scope of the crackdown goes far beyond measures against the suspected coup plotters and is targeting any critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to the Platform for Independent Journalism website, there are now 145 journalists behind bars in Turkey, which is ranked 151st of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.

Several of the journalists under arrest are from the Kurdish-majority southeast where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is waging a deadly insurgency against the military.

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