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Iraqi journalist detained, beaten, expelled from country

(HRinfo/IFEX) - On 9 August 2007, HRinfo called for the Syrian government to conduct a fair and honest investigation concerning the assault against Iraqi journalist Saif al-Khayat, who suffered serious violations at the hands of Syrian Political Security Forces before he was ordered to leave Syria in mid-June 2007.

Al-Khayat had traveled to Syria to work as a member of the Japanese news agency Jiji Press team. The agency submitted an official application to establish an office in Damascus. Syria's Political Security questioned Al-Khayat more than once about the nature of his journalism, his "political positions" and previous work in Iraq before he was allowed to stay in Syria. However, after having written two news reports about the presidential referendum in Syria, a number of Syrian Political Security personnel raided his apartment and arrested him on 19 June. He was taken to the headquarters of the Political Security -"Branch 701"- where he was physically assaulted because the mentioned two reports were not "satisfactory" to the Syrian Security apparatus. Al-Khayat was then forced to sign a paper stating he would leave Syria within three days.

Al-Khayat told HRinfo that "there was a (premeditated intention to punish me for what I have written because, although I tried to give the answers I thought they wanted to their strange and illogical questions, I was still subjected to a vicious physical assault. After the investigation and beating were over, I was ordered to sign a statement promising to leave Syria within three days."

No investigation has been ordered so far, although the Japanese news agency submitted an official complaint about the incident.

HRinfo executive director Gamal Eid said that: "Although assaults against journalists are common in the Arab world, they should not be accepted or taken lightly. The assault against Al-Khayat affirms the Syrian government's animosity towards independent journalism."

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