Turkey Releases National Geographic Photographer Detained for a Month But Never Charged

Mathias Depardon was allowed to leave Turkey on Friday.

French photographer Mathias Depardon, who was arrested in Turkey on May 8 while on assignment for National Geographic, was released on Friday and returned to France.

Depardon, 36, who has lived in Turkey for five years, was arrested while working in the district of Hasankeyf in the southeastern province of Batman, not far from Turkey’s border with Syria. Depardon was taking photographs for a National Geographic story about the effects on a historic town if a proposed dam were built nearby.

Depardon is welcomed by friends at Charles De Gaulle after his release.
WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Depardon never was formally charged, but held for a month by Turkish authorities.
WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Depardon leaves Charles De Gaulle airport after landing Friday evening.
WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Depardon celebrates his release with friends and relatives at the headquarters of Reporters Without Borders in Paris.
WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Depardon, 36, who has lived in Turkey for five years, was arrested while taking photographs in the district of Hasankeyf.
WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

“We are enormously relieved that Mathias Depardon has been released from more than a month of unwarranted, uncharged detention in Turkey,” said Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic. “Mathias is a photographer with a long record of practising distinguished journalism all over the world. While we are grateful he is now freed, he never should have been detained in the first place.”

The Turkish government has not told National Geographic why Depardon was released now, just as it never answered questions about why he was arrested and detained.

The ancient bridge of Malabadi in Southeastern Turkey. This was one of the last photographs taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photograph taken by Mathias Depardon while on assignment for National Geographic before he was arrested.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATHIAS DEPARDON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

According to his lawyer and friends, Depardon was stopped on May 8 by police who saw him taking photos and then reviewed images on his Instagram account. When they found images he had taken several months before of fighters for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—an armed group that has battled the Turkish government for decades and which is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization—Depardon says the officials accused him of supporting terrorists and took him into custody. Though a deportation order reportedly was drawn up at that time, it was not executed.

In the month since, Depardon never was formally charged, but was confined in a deportation facility in a small, shared cell. He went on a hunger strike May 21-28 to protest his treatment, and had told his mother, Daniele Van de Lanotte, that he felt isolated and anxious, and needed medical care.

Several international organisations had urged the Turkish government to end Depardon’s detention. The Committee to Protect Journalists launched a campaign seeking his release. So did the international journalist rights organisation Reporters Without Borders, whose secretary general, Christophe Deloire, travelled to Turkey this week with Van de Lanotte to visit Depardon. Friends and colleagues had mobilised calls for Depardon’s release on social media behind the hashtag #FreeMathias.

Following his release Friday, Depardon travelled with his mother to Istanbul. Friends reported to National Geographic that his plane had departed Istanbul and that he had officially left Turkey, bound for Paris.

Header Image: Mathias Depardon is greeted by Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders, at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, France, after his release June 9, 2017. WILLIAM DANIELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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