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Journalist Michel Kilo granted early release from prison, but has yet to be freed

(RSF/IFEX) - In a 2 November 2008 decision, a Damascus appeal court judge overturned a criminal court's refusal in August to release imprisoned writer and journalist Michel Kilo on completion of three-quarters of a three-year sentence. However, Kilo has not been freed and the attorney general of the Damascus prosecutor's office appealed on 4 November against the decision "in the interests of the law."

"Despite the appeal court's approval of Kilo's early release, the appeal filed by the attorney general reduces his chances of being freed soon," Reporters Without Borders said. "If the authorities really were seriously concerned about the 'interests of the law,' Kilo and many other peaceful free expression activists would not be rotting in prison. The Syrian justice system has always been biased and extremely inhuman towards the country's free thinkers."

A Damascus criminal court refused to free Kilo in August although he had served three-quarters of his sentence and therefore qualified for early release under Syrian law. This decision was quashed on 2 November by an appeal court judge, but Kilo has remained in the capital's Adra prison as a result of the attorney general's appeal to the interior ministry, which must now decide whether to refer the appeal to a plenary session of the appeal court.

Khalil Maâtouk, one of Kilo's lawyers, told Reporters Without Borders that the attorney general's appeal should not have been able to hold up execution of the appeal court judge's ruling in favour of Kilo's release. He added that there was a "strong possibility" that the attorney general had not notified the prison about the ruling.

Now aged 68, Kilo has been held in Adra prison since 14 May 2006. He was convicted on a charge of "undermining national sentiment" along with other human rights activists.

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), various Spanish forums, the Almería Press Association (Spain) and the Calafell City Hall (Spain).

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