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Syrian court drops all charges against Mazen Darwish and colleagues

This statement was originally published on freemedia.at on 1 September 2015.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed reports that all charges against 2015 IPI World Press Freedom Hero Mazen Darwish will be dropped after a Syrian court ruled that a 2014 amnesty applies to the case.

“We are extremely pleased to hear of this decision, which was long overdue”, IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Mazen Darwish and his co-defendants suffered far too much for far too long, merely for seeking to ensure that the world knew the truth about what is happening in Syria.

“We renew our call for all parties in Syria to respect the necessary role that journalists play and to allow them to report freely and without interference. We also call on our colleagues in the country, one of the world's most dangerous for journalists, to exercise the utmost caution as they go about their work.”

Yara Bader, Darwish's wife and the director of the Syrian Center for Media Freedom (SCM), an organisation founded by Darwish in 2004 to protect media freedom and support journalists' rights in Syria, shared the news with free expression groups late yesterday by email.

Darwish, a renowned Syrian journalist was freed on Aug. 10 after spending nearly three-and-a-half years behind bars on spurious charges of “publicising terrorist acts”. Two of his SCM colleagues who had been detained with him, Hussein Ghrer and Hani Zaitani, were released last month.

All three were reportedly subject to ill-treatment and torture during their imprisonment and the court hearing the case against them had repeatedly declined to rule whether a June 2014 amnesty for political prisoners applied to their case.

Bader told supporters yesterday that the decision that the amnesty applied would become final after 30 days and that the amnesty will also apply to Darwish's co-defendants.

Earlier this month, IPI joined in an international call on Syrian authorities to drop all charges against the three defendants. While IPI welcomed today's development, it noted that Syrian authorities continue to detain many other individuals in reaction to their legitimate exercise of human rights and called for their release. Many of those cases have been documented by through the Free Syria's Silenced Voices campaign.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Belated amnesty for Syrian "information hero" Mazen Darwish

    “These journalists and human rights activists were not guilty of any crime and paid the high price of more than three years in prison for legitimate activities. The decision to apply the 2014 amnesty to their case is good news although long overdue. We ask the authorities to free all the journalists who are unjustly detained in Syria.”



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