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USA Weekend

Apr 25, 3:22 PM EDT

US journalist says he was denied entry into Turkey



ISTANBUL (AP) -- A Turkey-based American journalist says he was denied re-entry at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Monday and is returning to the United States.

David Lepeska is one of several foreign journalists who have been recently detained, denied entry or expelled from Turkey as the government cracks down on critical media and dissenting voices - raising concerns in a country once seen as a model of Muslim democracy and which aspires to EU membership.

"I've been given no reason for the entry ban, or confirmation that this status is lasting or permanent," Lepeska, who has written for Foreign Affairs and Al Jazeera America, told The Associated Press.

Lepeska arrived in Turkey from Italy on Sunday evening after a family vacation. On arrival, he was informed that there was an entry ban on his visa and that he would need to wait for clearance from Ankara to re-enter the country.

After nearly 20 hours of waiting, Lepeska said, he decided such clearance "probably wasn't forthcoming" and booked a flight to Chicago as he is a native of the area.

On his Instagram account, he wrote, "This is not the last I will see of you, Turkey."

There was no immediate comment from Turkey's Interior or Foreign Ministries on his situation. The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul declined to comment on the case.

Lepeska said he wasn't accredited as a journalist in Turkey because he had a valid foreign mission visa in his capacity as editor for The World Bank.

The organization confirmed he worked in Istanbul as a "part-time editor consultant" at the International Finance Cooperation, a member of The World Bank Group.

The World Bank said it was aware of the incident, but "not aware of the reason."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on Turkish authorities to allow Lepeska to enter Turkey without delay. The government should "stop obstructing him and other international journalists from reporting in the country," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

"A Turkey that aspires to membership in the European Union and for global recognition as a reliable partner has no business banning foreign journalists," she added.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court ruled Monday that a well-known journalist should pay a fine of about $10,500 for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his son Bilal, and several businessmen.

The court found Cumhuriyet chief editor Can Dundar guilty of "insulting public figures" over remarks he made in August 2014, when Erdogan was prime minister, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The journalist, however, was acquitted of charges of "breaching confidentiality" over his reporting on a December 2013 graft probe.

Dundar, along with Cumhuriyet Ankara representative Erdem Gul, is facing separate charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization. The pair could face life imprisonment if found guilty of revealing state secrets over a report on alleged government arms-smuggling to Syrian rebels.

---

Martin Crutsinger in Washington, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, contributed to this report.

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