US labels Spanish journalist as “terrorist,” RSF asks Spain to intercede. Manuel Martorell, a well-known Spanish journalist and historian who specializes in covering Kurdish issues, has gone through a living hell since the US State Department wrongly classified him as a terrorist more than six months ago.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Spanish government to help resolve this situation, which has had extremely grave consequences for Martorell. Everything began last May, when he was refused a tourist visa for a trip to the United States with his family. The US consulate in Madrid asked him to submit his application in person. When he went to the consulate, he was asked to fill out questionnaire about his personal and professional history and the history of some of his family members. Three months later – after having to cancel the family’s holiday with all the personal and financial cost that entailed – he received a letter from the US Department of State informing him that his visa application had been denied because he was alleged to have participated in “terrorist activities.” This extremely grave allegation left Martorell in a very vulnerable position, given the current surge in international terrorism. RSF’s Spanish section made several attempts to raise the problem with the Spanish authorities and the US authorities in Spain, but without success. RSF obtained no response from either the US embassy in Madrid, the Spanish foreign ministry or the Spanish secretariat for information. “As this situation needs an urgent solution, we call on Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García Margallo to do everything possible to ensure that the US administration rectifies this deplorable mistake and explains how it came about,” said Malén Aznárez, the president of RSF Spain. “Manuel Martorell is a renowned journalist who has been treated as a ‘terrorist’ for more than six months. This classification not only prevents him from travelling freely but can also have very grave consequences.” As well as rightly seeking rectification by the US State Department, Martorell is also demanding a clear explanation of the reasons that led the United States to accuse him of “atrocities of this kind.” “I have never belonged to or supported any political organization, either Spanish or foreign,” he said. “In my view, terrorism is the biggest crime of which I could be accused and making such an accusation without providing any explanation violates the most fundamental principles of national and international law.” Martorell thinks that this unjust accusation may be linked to the fact that he has specialised in Kurdish issues, on which he has produced hundreds of articles, reports and documentaries and has written several books in the course of his 30-year career. Many journalists’ associations, political parties, human rights lawyers and NGOs have come to his defence. In his home region of Navarre, the regional parliament unanimously approved a declaration of support for this journalist. Following a lengthy exchange of messages between the Spanish and US authorities, Martorell was told he should try submitting a new visa application. After another interview at the US consulate in Madrid, Martorell is now awaiting the US State Department’s decision.