Missing Turk scribes to be freed soon: NGO

Missing Turk scribes to be freed soon: NGO

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Missing Turk scribes to be freed soon: NGO

Demonstrators from Media-İş union hold a protest on May 1 in Ankara’s Tandoğan Square calling for the release of two Turkish journalists who went missing in Syria. Yahya Coçkun says he talked to his brother on the phone recently thanks to an NGO. AA photo

As hope rises for two Turkish journalists held in Damascus by Syrian authorities according to their relatives, a nongovernmental organization representative said the reporters were “safe and sound” and senior Iranian officials have been mediating for their release.

Turkish journalists Hamit Coşkun and Adem Özköse, who have been missing for nearly two months in Syria were found in Damascus by officials from the Istanbul-based Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) on May 5, Serkan Nergis, press consultant for the İHH, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. 

“Iranian and Turkish committees went to Damascus recently, and they met with Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun in lockup on May 5. The journalists’ states of health were reported as good by the İHH officials,” Nergis said in a phone interview.

Nergis also said they have been conducting humanitarian diplomacy with Syrian officials to rescue the journalists for the last two months with the support of Iranian officials. 

However, it was not certain if the Turkish journalists would be freed, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. The official denied media reports that Turkish officials from the Foreign Ministry and intelligence officials visited Damascus for negotiations to release the journalists.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on May 5 that they have been following the developments closely. Responding to a question about news reports that the journalists were set to be released soon, Davutoğlu said, “I hope they will return safe and sound back to our country.”

Brother talks on the phone

Cameraman Hamit Coşkun’s brother Yahya Coşkun said he had talked to his brother on a phone provided by the İHH committee, which is reportedly the first contact with the journalists since March 10. Yahya Çoşkun said his brother was held in a “private prison” in Damascus by Syrian officials. 

“We talked on the phone only 30 seconds but it was a big relief for me after two months without any news about their lives. We were occasionally getting unofficial information from local sources but Syria is passing through violent days, you can never know what will happen next,” Yahya Coşkun told the Daily News yesterday on the phone. Yahya Coşkun also said he had not been informed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry about the release of his brother recently. However, he said he was hopeful that they would return to Turkey after speaking to Hamit Coşkun on the phone.