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Translator for Human Rights Watch contractor missing after responding to military intelligence summons

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is a Human Rights Watch press release:

Syria: Make Missing Translator's Fate Public
Man Missing One Month After Responding to Military Intelligence Summons

(New York, August 31, 2007) - The Syrian authorities should reveal the fate of Ali al-Barazi, a translator who has been missing for the past month after being summoned by Military Intelligence, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter sent on August 27 ( http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/27/syria16747.htm ) to President Bashar al-Asad, Human Rights Watch requested information on the whereabouts and well-being of al-Barazi, a 45-year-old resident of Jdaydet 'Artuz, a Damascus suburb. Military Intelligence called him in for questioning on July 28, 2007. Neither his family nor his friends and associates have seen or heard from him since then. Al-Barazi's family does not know why he was called in for questioning. In response to family members' inquiries, Military Intelligence has told them that al-Barazi is not in their custody.

"We're concerned that government forces may have 'disappeared' Ali al-Barazi," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "This is an extremely serious crime under international law, and we hold the government fully responsible for his well-being and safe return to his family."

Human Rights Watch said that the government should release al-Barazi immediately unless there is evidence that he has committed a criminal offense. In that case, the authorities should refer him to the prosecutor and accord him his due process rights, including immediate access to a lawyer, a medical examination, and a hearing before a competent, independent judicial authority to determine the lawfulness of his continued detention.

Al-Barazi works as a translator at the Syrian European Documentation Center (SEDC), a Damascus-based private company. Among other clients, SEDC translates documents produced by Human Rights Watch into Arabic for publication on its Arabic-language website. SEDC does not translate work produced by Human Rights Watch on Syria.

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