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Journalist and writer Michel Kilo begins third year in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Syrian writer and journalist Michel Kilo, who is about to begin his third year in Adra prison, in Damascus. Arrested on 14 May 2006, Kilo was given a three-year jail term one year later for "weakening national sentiment." The authorities have until now refused to shorten his sentence.

"President Bashar el-Assad's regime tolerates absolutely no criticism and is constantly trampling on press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said. "Dozens of political prisoners, including journalists, have falling victim in the past few years to courts that are subservient to the political authorities. Michel Kilo is one of them."

The organisation added: "Kilo has been detained for the past two years for calling for relations between Syria and Lebanon to be normalised. There no longer seems to be any limit to the government's blind and brutal repression, with 12 other pro-democracy activists soon to be tried. In view of the verdicts recently handed down by Damascus courts, we fear they will be dealt with severely."

Now aged 68 and a leading figure in the struggle for democracy in Syria, Kilo was arrested after signing the "Beirut-Damascus, Damascus-Beirut" appeal, a joint declaration issued by Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals calling for a radical overhaul of relations between the two countries. It was condemned by the Syrian authorities, who arrested Kilo and other prominent signatories such as lawyer Awar El-Bunni.

Another 12 pro-democracy activists ( ) were arrested and placed in Adra prison in December 2007 after signing the Damascus Declaration, calling for democratic reforms in Syria. They are due to be tried soon on charges of "harming the prestige of the state," "publishing false information," "membership of a secret organisation designed to destabilise the state" and "fuelling ethnic and racial tension."

Sign the petition for Michel Kilo's release:

Reporters Without Borders established a system of sponsorship 18 years ago in which international media are encouraged to adopt imprisoned journalists. More than 200 news organisations, journalists' associations, press clubs and other entities throughout the world are currently supporting journalists by regularly calling on the authorities to release them and by publicising their cases.

Kilo has been adopted by "Le Pèlerin" (France), the 06 Mediterranean Press Club (France), Varios Foros (Spain), the Almería Press Association (Spain) and the Calafell City Hall (Spain).

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