Release of 2 Turk journalists in Syria to 'take time': group
ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
Turkish journalist Adem Özköse (L) and Hamit Coşkun. AA photosTwo Turkish journalists held by Syrian authorities are in good health but their release is likely to take time, a member of the Turkish Islamist aid group IHH told AFP today.
"Our delegation visited the two journalists in Damascus on Saturday. They are in good health but it appears their release will take time," said Hüseyin Oruç, board member of IHH.
Freelance cameraman Hamit Coşkun and Adem Özköse from the Istanbul-based Islamist newspaper Milat had traveled to rebel stronghold Idlib near the Turkish border in March to cover the deadly violence in neighboring Syria.
The pair were reportedly handed over to Syrian intelligence by a pro-regime militia in March. Coşkun has claimed to have been tortured, according to local media.
The two journalists are "in the hands of the regime," said Oruç, adding that IHH was holding negotiations with Iranian and Syrian officials to secure their return home.
"We are carrying out humanitarian diplomacy for their release," he said while hailing the permission granted by Damascus to the aid group's meeting with the pair as a "significant step." IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfı) is a relief foundation close to the conservative Islamist-rooted government and has organised aid for Syrian refugees who have fled the bloodshed in their country for Turkey and Lebanon.
Turkey has been working relentlessly to repatriate the two journalists.
In April, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the Damascus regime to account for their fate.
"They have not yet been freed. The Syrian administration must answer for this," he said.
Ankara has urged thousands of Turkish nationals to leave Syria where a bloody crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's regime on opposition protesters has killed over 11,000 people, according to monitoring groups.
Turkey has broken its former alliance with Damascus and called on Assad to quit.