Turkish reporter describes Syrian detention (AP) Associated Press) By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA ISTANBUL, TURKEY 05/14/12 2:02 pm ET)
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ISTANBUL – A Turkish journalist who was held captive in Syria for two
months said Monday that he was intensely interrogated while
blindfolded by Syrian authorities who suspected he was a spy and
wondered why his government was trying so hard to release him.
Adem Ozkose, a writer for Turkey´s Milat newspaper, also told The
Associated Press in an interview that his Syrian captors heaped
insults on Turkish leaders, saying they were working for the
Americans and had betrayed Syria.
´"You´re working for the Americans,´" Ozkose quoted his captors as
saying. ´"You abandoned us.´"
Ozkose and a colleague, cameraman Hamit Coskun, flew home to Turkey
this weekend after Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad,
helped to secure their release. Turkey, a NATO member that once had
warm ties with Syria, has since closed its embassy and demands, along
with its Western and Arab allies, that Assad resign because of his
bloody crackdown on the opposition.
The two journalists were reported missing in early March in the
northern province of Idlib, and were then taken to a jail in
Damascus. Initially, Ozkose said, they were held by a militia that
put guns to their heads, and then three armored vehicles picked them
up for transfer in a helicopter to Damascus under the guard of
regular security forces.
He said an Iranian official came to the jail and told them that they
would be freed on the following day. On Saturday, jail officials took
the journalists to the airport and handed them over to Iranian
authorities, and they boarded a commercial flight to Tehran. From
there, they flew back to Turkey on a plane dispatched by the Turkish
An official at the Iranian embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital,
confirmed that Iran was a "facilitator and moderator" for the release
of Ozkose and Coskun, and said two Iranian "visitors" who had been
kidnapped in Syria were "recently" released by Syrian opposition
groups. But the official insisted the two incidents were not related.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the
The official said there were several Iranians, including engineers
working on Iranian projects and tourists, still held captive by
Syrian opposition groups and that Iran was working for their release.
Ozkose spoke to the AP at the office of Milat, a new newspaper with
an Islamic background. The 33-year-old journalist was on board a
Turkish aid boat bound for Gaza that was the target of a deadly raid
by Israeli commandos in 2010, and he was held with other passengers
in Israeli detention until they were deported.
In the interview, Ozkose described the Israeli detention center
as "five-star" in comparison to the Syrian jail, where he slept on a
concrete floor, saw naked prisoners and sometimes heard people crying
out in anguish.
Turkey pressed Iran, another regional power and traditional rival,
for help in releasing the two Turks, and IHH, an Islamic aid group
that had operated the boat that was raided by Israel, moved
aggressively to assist in the talks. In the past, Ozkose, who is
deeply devout, has described insurgents he knew during a reporting
trip to Afghanistan, as well as Palestinian militants in Gaza, as
´"Why does Turkey care so much about you? Who are you? Are you from
Turkish intelligence?´" he quoted Syrian guards as asking. In one of
the interrogations, he said: "If you are going to kill me, don´t kill
me as an intelligence officer, kill me as a journalist."
He said the Syrian militia and guards displayed a keen knowledge
of "Valley of the Wolves," a Turkish television drama that depicts
Israeli soldiers committing atrocities, and features fictional
Turkish hero Polat Alemdar, who might be described as a cross between
James Bond and Rambo.
"They said, ´Let´s see if Polat Alemdar will come and save you," the
captors constantly joked, according to Ozkose. "You have only one
Polat, we have thousands."
Ozkose has three children, all of whom were born in Damascus, where
his family lived for several years.
"After tomorrow, I´ll shut off my phone," he said. "I want to play
with my children. I want to spend time with my family. And I want to
walk for hours. This was my dream, when I was in jail."
___Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser and Emrah Betos contributed.
(© 2012 The Associated Press 05/14/12)
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