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Sasa Petricic, Derek Stoffel Arrested: CBC Reporters Detained In Istanbul

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UPDATE: Two CBC journalists covering violent anti-government protests in Turkey were detained by police in Istanbul for several hours Wednesday before being released after Ottawa demanded they be freed.

The CBC said Wednesday evening Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel were "unharmed" and "in good condition" after their ordeal, which began just before noon.

Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel, reporters for CBC News, have been arrested in Turkey, the network confirmed Wednesday.

At 10:30 a.m. ET, Petricic, who has been covering recent unrest in Istanbul, tweeted out a single word: 'Arrested'

A couple of hours later, CBC confirmed the arrests with the following statement:

CBC reporters Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel have been detained by police in Turkey amid ongoing protests in the country. The CBC has been in contact with them, and they say they're OK.

The CBC said Wednesday afternoon that it had been in contact with the two reporters.

"We can confirm both journalists have been detained but are in good condition," said spokesman Chuck Thompson.

The public broadcaster followed that up with a tweet that suggested the reporters' release was imminent: "Turkey's ambassador to Canada, Tuncay Babali, says CBC's Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel 'are safe and expected to be released shortly.' "

The reporters appeared to have re-gained access to their phones about an hour after their arrests were confirmed and both tweeted about being detained.

After several hours of silence, Stoffel also managed to send a tweet out before losing his phone: "Sasa and I are ok. In police custody but ok. Thanks for kind words. Will lose mobile phones very quickly so good night."

"All good so far. Going through the Byzantine (literally) process! Thanks everyone," Petricic added.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had contacted authorities in Istanbul earlier regarding the situation.

Early Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted, "Just got off the phone with the Turkish ambassador and expressed concern over reports of a CBC journalist detained in Istanbul."

Diane Ablonczy, minister of state for consular affairs, said the government was monitoring the situation closely.

"Canadian officials are in touch both with the CBC and have met with the two detained journalists,'' she said in the House of Commons.

"The Turkish ambassador has assured us that the two journalists are safe and well treated and we will continue to liaise at the highest levels until this matter is resolved.''

The House of Commons also unanimously approved a motion brought by Liberal MP Bob Rae which condemned the arrest and detention of the two reporters and called on Turkish authorities ``to release them immediately.''

A veteran reporter, Petricic may have been among several journalists rounded up, as police descend on Istanbul's Taksim Square, CJAD 800 is reporting.

Earlier in the day, Petricic tweeted from the public square — an epicenter of mass protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — describing the aftermath of a "rough night of teargas & rain... but still hundreds of people staying."

Stoffel's last tweet before his arrest Wednesday was a photo of a tractor and plow clearing protesters' barricades in the square.

Turkey has experienced nearly two weeks of protests that began in Istanbul after a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by activists objecting to a development project.

The protests have since spread to dozens of other cities and are shaping up as the biggest test yet in the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government.

The protesters say the prime minister is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is trying to force his deep religious views on all Turks. Erdogan insists the protests are being organized by extremists and terrorists and must end immediately.

Activists say 5,000 people have been injured or seriously affected by the tear gas and four people have died in the protests.

On Wednesday, thousands of Turkish lawyers took to the streets, sounding off on the alleged rough treatment of their colleagues by police.

More from The Canadian Press:

OTTAWA — Two CBC journalists covering violent anti-government protests in Turkey were detained by police in Istanbul for several hours Wednesday before being released after Ottawa demanded they be freed.

The CBC said Wednesday evening Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel were "unharmed" and "in good condition" after their ordeal, which began just before noon.

The pair had been tweeting photos and observations from around Turkey's largest city when the flow of information ended with a single tweet from Petricic's account.

"Arrested," he tweeted.

News of their release Wednesday evening also spread on Twitter, and was quickly confirmed by messages sent from Stoffel's account.

"My exclusive 'tour' of the Turkish justice system is over! Thanks for all the kind comments! And very big thanks to all at (at)CBCNews," one read.

Another tweet thanked Foreign Affairs officials for helping speed up the two journalists' release.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweeted earlier that he had contacted the Turkish ambassador and expressed concern about the incident.

Diane Ablonczy, minister of state for consular affairs, had also said the government was monitoring the situation closely.

"The Turkish ambassador has assured us that the two journalists are safe and well treated and we will continue to liaise at the highest levels until this matter is resolved," she said in the House of Commons.

The House of Commons also unanimously approved a motion brought by Liberal MP Bob Rae which condemned the arrest and detention of the two reporters and called on Turkish authorities "to release them immediately."

The reporters appeared to have re-gained access to their cellphones about an hour after their arrests were confirmed and both tweeted about being detained.

"Sasa and I are OK. In police custody but OK. Thanks for kind words. Will lose mobile phones very quickly so good night," Stoffel said on Twitter.

"All good so far. Going through the Byzantine (literally) process! Thanks everyone," Petricic added.

Turkey has experienced nearly two weeks of protests that began in Istanbul after a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by activists objecting to a development project.

The protests have since spread to dozens of other cities and are shaping up as the biggest test yet in the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government.

The protesters say the prime minister is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is trying to force his deep religious views on all Turks. Erdogan insists the protests are being organized by extremists and terrorists and must end immediately.

Activists say 5,000 people have been injured or seriously affected by the tear gas and four people have died in the protests.

On Wednesday, thousands of Turkish lawyers took to the streets, sounding off on the alleged rough treatment of their colleagues by police.

Later in the day, the governing party said it was open to holding a referendum over the Istanbul development plan that has had a central role in the mass protests.

The announcement came after talks between Erdogan and a group of activists. It was the first big gesture by his government to end the civil unrest.

A spokesman for the ruling party also said, however, that the government would not allow an ongoing sit-in at a park which has been at the centre of the protests to continue "until doomsday."

With files from The Canadian Press

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