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Crackdown on dissent continues in spite of selective presidential amnesty

(WiPC/IFEX) - PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) expresses renewed concerns for the safety of journalists, bloggers, writers and activists arrested in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests which has been taking place across Syrian cities since mid-March 2011. It also welcomes the release on 2 June 2011 of at least five dissident writers in a limited presidential amnesty. PEN reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria for the peaceful exercise of their opinions and urgently seeks guarantees of their safety. It reminds the Syrian authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and is alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.

According to PEN's information, several dissident writers arrested in the recent crackdown on anti-government protests were reported to have been released in recent days as part of a presidential amnesty announced on 2 June 2011. Protestors had called for the release of all political prisoners in Syria, as well as other political reforms. Those released include:

- Mahmoud Issa, journalist and writer, arrested on 19 April 2011.
- Khaled Sid Mohand, freelance journalist for a number of news outlets including "Le Monde", arrested on 12 April 2011.
- Zaid Mastu, correspondent, arrested on 12 April 2011.
- Mohamed Dibo, journalist and writer, arrested on 12 April 2011 and released on 25 May 2011.
- Dorothy Parvaz, correspondent, arrested on 29 April 2011 and released in mid-May 2011 after being deported to Iran.

Novelist Raghdah Sa'id Hassan was also released on 2 June 2011 under the presidential amnesty. She had been held without charge since 10 February 2010.

PEN remains concerned however about the following individuals who have not been included in the amnesty and remain at risk of ill-treatment in detention:

- Blogger and poet Tal Al-Mallouhi was arrested on 27 December 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison on 14 February 2011.
- Writer and editor Najati Tayara, who was arrested on 12 May 2011, remains detained without charge. He has reportedly been transferred to a detention centre in Damascus.


Please send appeals immediately to the Syrian authorities:
- welcoming the release of writers, journalists and bloggers Raghdah Said Hassan, Mahmoud Issa, Khaled Sid Mohand, Zaid Mastu, Khaled Sid Mohand, Mohamed Dibo and Dorothy Parvaz
- protesting the continued detention of all those currently held solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, including writer and editor Najati Tayara and blogger and poet Tal Al-Mallouhi
- condemning the widespread arrest of journalists and bloggers for reporting on the recent protests, which the WiPC believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression
- calling on the Syrian authorities to investigate allegations of torture of detainees
- calling for the release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria is a signatory


His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Said Sammour
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 222 3428
E-mail: [email protected]

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

***Please contact WiPC if sending appeals after 30 June 2011***

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