CBC correspondents recount their arrests in Turkey
2 journalists put on police bus, eventually staying in holding cell for 3 or 4 hours
Sasa Petricic says he and fellow CBC correspondent Derek Stoffel were treated fairly well by Turkish authorities after they were arrested and held for 11 hours in Istanbul on Wednesday while covering the ongoing anti-government demonstrations.
The incident began as the two started taking pictures of workers who were dismantling protester barricades Wednesday afternoon.
"Out of nowhere a couple of men came and started jostling us and telling us, you know, shouting at us not to shoot pictures, and it really escalated quickly," Stoffel said.
Shortly thereafter, Turkish police officers appeared and got involved.
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Petricic said their interpreter told them that police were saying they were resisting arrest and were interfering with city roadwork.
The two journalists were put on a police bus that began to drive around the city, picking up other people who had been arrested and dropping off police officers.
It was during that trip that Petricic was able to send out a Twitter message that read "Arrested," which was shared widely on the social media site.
"That was the only way that I could figure to get the news out that in fact the police had us," Petricic said. "And to get, I guess, something rolling, some ball rolling to try to get someone at least to know where we were, but also to try to intervene on our behalf."
'When we met with Canadian officials, they told us the Turks were going to press two charges against us: for obstructing police work and obstructing road work, and we knew at that point it was very serious.'—Derek Stoffel, CBC correspondent
"When we met with Canadian officials, they told us the Turks were going to press two charges against us: for obstructing police work and obstructing road work, and we knew at that point it was very serious," Stoffel told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition (Saskatchewan).
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced on Twitter after Petricic's message was posted that he had called Turkey's ambassador to Canada, Tuncay Babali, to express his concern.
Petricic and Stoffel were eventually taken to a police station and held for three or four hours in a basement holding cell along with a handful of young men before being released early Thursday morning.
Stoffel said the Turkish men had been arrested for more serious offences, including throwing rocks, but also for simply bringing food to protesters.
"We had the support of people back home and we're very grateful, but what sticks with me is these eight guys, I can guarantee you, they are still in custody," he said.
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It appears Stoffel and Petricic were freed, in part, after behind-the-scenes work by both Canadian and Turkish consular officials.
"They really didn’t know what to do with these two Canadian guys who were part of foreign media and obviously had some kind of connections because I would imagine the police officials were getting some kind of pressure," said Petricic, who added that they were provided with bread and water, and were not physically harmed.
The nationwide protests in Turkey erupted on May 31 after a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by activists opposed to the redevelopment of a park.
Reporters Without Borders, in a statement released Wednesday, said it was "becoming increasingly concerned about the dangerous climate for journalists covering Turkey’s protest movement."
In January, the rights group described Turkey as "the world’s biggest prison for journalists" and ranked the country 154th in its 2013 Press Freedom Index.