Saudi Arabia detained a Pakistani journalist and his Turkish cameraman working for Turkey’s state-run English language television channel for some 10 hours on Friday, according to a statement by reporter Hasan Abdullah.
TRT’s Abdullah and cameraman Nihat Yayman were in Saudi Arabia to cover a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who held talks with Saudi King Salman as part of mediation efforts to defuse an ongoing diplomatic crisis between a Saudi-led group of countries and Qatar.
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The two TRT workers were detained by Saudi authorities at their hotel in Mecca after a live television appearance, and were asked questions about the Gulf crisis, Abdullah’s statement said.
They were later released after Cavusoglu personally intervened with the Saudi king, it added.
“We had been there with official ‘Special Visa’ to cover the Turkey-Saudi meeting. The ordeal lasted nearly 10 hours during which we faced multiple interrogations and lock-up,” the statement said.
The pair are now heading back to Turkey.
There was no immediate response from Saudi authorities.
Cavusoglu was in Saudi Arabia to hold talks aimed at easing a major diplomatic rift, after the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and a number of other countries severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar last week, accusing it of supporting armed groups and Iran. Qatar rejects the accusations.
Riyadh also shut its border with Qatar, the emirate’s only land frontier. In addition, the three Gulf counties closed their airspace to Qatari flights, causing disruptions for a country that is heavily dependent on imports.
Turkey – which regards Qatar as its chief ally in the Gulf, but is also eager to maintain its improving relations with the key regional power Saudi Arabia – has been trying to act as a mediator between the two sides.
It has strongly backed Qatar in the crisis and called on Riyadh to take a lead role in resolving the issue.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Cavusoglu also visited Qatar and Kuwait earlier this week.