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SYRIA: journalist Mazen Darwich at risk of facing a secret military tribunal.

Thursday 9 August 2012 - 1:00am

RAN 11/12 #update 1 - 09 August 2012

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The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is seriously concerned that prominent journalist and freedom of expression activist Mazen Darwich is at risk of being brought before a secret military tribunal. Hearings before such a Court are held in secret and even the defendant’s lawyers are prohibited from attending. PEN International considers Mazen Darwich to be targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his 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. It calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

On 6 August 2012, a letter was reportedly sent to the Military Court in Damascus from the Air Forces Intelligence service stating that Mazen Darwich is soon to be transferred to a military tribunal.

According to PEN’s information, the Air Forces Intelligence service arrested Darwich, a leading member of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) on 16 February 2012 and since then he has been held incommunicado and his whereabouts are still unknown. Other detained SCM members are Hussein Greir, Mansour Hamid Al-Omary, Hani Z’itani and Abdelrahman Hamadah, Details of their current status remain unclear but they are thought to be under heavy restriction. It is reported that all detainees have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention.

Mazin Darwich and thirteen of his colleagues were arrested when security forces raided the offices of the Damascus-based SCM, of which he is Director. Those arrested with him are journalist and blogger Yara Badr (f), bloggers Razan Ghazzawi (f), Hanadi Zahlout (f), Sana Z’itani (f), Rita Dayoub (f), Mayada Al-Khalil (f), Hussein Greir, Hani Z’itani, Joan Farso, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Mansour Hamid and Abdelrahman Hamadah. All but Darwich, Greir, Al-Omary, Z’itani and Hamadah were freed to face trial. The civilian court in Damascus trying their case demanded the presence of Darwich as a witness. The court sessions were held on 29 May 2012, 25 June 2012 and 6 August 2012. The 6 August 2012 letter for the Air Force Intelligence advised that Darwich would soon be transferred to a military tribunal, and that the SCM was practicing without a license, the first news of Darwich since his arrest. The judge presiding the other cases has reportedly decided to suspend Darwich as a witness until the next session, which will be held on 29 August 2012.

For more information, please read PEN’s previous RAN alert

For a statement by PEN International on recent events in Syria click here

Please send appeals:

Expressing grave concern for the well-being and whereabouts of journalist and activist Mazen Darwich, bloggers Hussein Greir, Mansour Hamid Al- Omary, Hani Z’itani and Abdelrahman Hamadah

Dropping the charges against all SMC’s members including Yara Badr, bloggers Razan Ghazzawi, Hanadi Zahlout, Sana Z’itani , Rita Dayoub, Mayada Al-Khalil , Joan Farso, Bassam Al-Ahmad;

Expressing concerns for the safety of the detainees, and seeking assurances that they are not being tortured or ill-treated in detention which violates Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria is a state party;

APPEALS TO:

Given the present crisis in Syria, we suggest that letters are sent to the Syrian embassies in your country where they exist. Also, please distribute this alert as widely as possible in your media and among other interested group.

For further information please contact Ghias Aljundi at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: ghias.aljundi@pen-international.org