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Syrian judge postpones Mazen Darwish's court date again

UPDATE: SCM President Yara Bader, who is Darwish's wife, said late on 2 June that the court has now set 22 July as the next date for proceedings in the case.

Police stand at the gate of Damascus Central Prison in the Adra area near the Syrian capital of Damascus in this 28 May 2010 file photo
Police stand at the gate of Damascus Central Prison in the Adra area near the Syrian capital of Damascus in this 28 May 2010 file photo

REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri/Files

This statement was originally published on freemedia.at on 2 June 2015.

A Syrian judge yesterday postponed the trial of IPI World Press Freedom Hero Mazen Darwish again, but in a troubling move set no new court date.

The development is particularly concerning given the fact that Darwish and his fellow imprisoned colleagues from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) – Hussain Ghrer and Hani Zaitani – were not brought to court and their whereabouts remain unknown.

Local sources say they have not seen the three journalists since May 6, when Syrian authorities transferred them from the Adra Prison, where they were awaiting trial, to an unknown location.

"We are gravely concerned about the welfare of Mazen Darwish, Hussain Ghrer and Hani Zaitani," IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said today. "While we reject any suggestion that their reporting on the ongoing conflict in Syria constituted support for terrorism, we again call on Syrian authorities to honour a June 2014 amnesty that should have applied to their case and to free them immediately."

Darwish, Ghrer and Zaitani were detained in February 2012 and were charged in March 2014 with "publicising terrorist acts" under Art. 8 of Syria's 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law.

Yesterday's postponement marked the 24th time that the special anti-terrorism court has delayed the case, SCM President Yara Bader, who is Darwish's wife, said in a statement. Bader also noted that the delay was the 11th since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued the 2014 amnesty.

Local sources say that the court hearing the case has thus far declined to determine whether the amnesty applies to the three men.

Darwish's case has drawn international criticism for the arbitrary and ongoing nature of the detention. IPI in February named Darwish, also a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, its 67th World Press Freedom Hero. In May, he was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

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