Two Turkish journalists who were detained in Syria for two months have arrived back in Turkey after Iran acted as an intermediary in their release.
Reporter Adem Ozkose and cameraman Hamit Coskun were on a plane from Tehran that landed early on Sunday in Istanbul, where they were greeted by friends, relatives and Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay.
The pair were reported missing in early March after travelling to the northern province of Idlib to work on a documentary about the Syrian crackdown on unrest, and were not heard from until last weekend when they made brief telephone calls to their families from detention in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
'Blindfolded and handcuffed'
The two men said they felt most at risk in the early stage of their captivity, when pro-government militiamen put guns to their heads and threatened them.
"Thank God we were saved but there are many others inside Syria waiting for freedom"
- Hamit Coskun
Ozkose, a reporter for Milat, a Turkish newspaper, said he and Coskun were abducted by militiamen who had blocked a road and were stopping cars and abducting passengers.
"They would fire upon those who didn't stop. They stopped our car,'' Ozkose said at a news conference. "Then they blindfolded and handcuffed us and took us to a cellar.''
He said he and Coskun were later held separately at a prison in Damascus, where they slept on a concrete floor.
Turkey has strained ties with Syria, which is trying to crush an anti-government uprising. Turkish officials had asked Iran, a staunch supporter of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, to help in efforts to release the journalists.
The Turkish aid group Humanitarian Relief Foundation, known as IHH, said it was involved in "humanitarian diplomacy" with both Syrian and Iranian officials to mediate their release. The pair was first flown from Syria to Iran on Saturday before switching to a plane dispatched by the Turkish government to collect them.
"We were in a cell without sunlight. We woke up to the same thing every day. Nothing ever changed. I didn't know what day it was when we landed in Tehran,'' Coskun said.
"Finding out what day it was made me happy. It made me appreciate freedom. Thank God we were saved but there are many others inside Syria waiting for freedom,'' he said.