Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that, after more than three years of arbitrary detention, well-known Syrian journalist and human rights defender Mazen Darwish has been released conditionally pending a verdict expected on 31 August.
Darwish’s wife, Yara Bader, confirmed today that he has been freed under an amnesty that the Syrian government issued on 18 July, at the end of Ramadan.
“We are relieved that Mazen Darwish is free again and we are now waiting for the court to find him innocent,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“A Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Laureate, Darwish is a leading symbol of resistance to a regime that has constantly suppressed independently reported news and information and covered up human rights violations. We call for the unconditional release of Darwish, Hussein Ghreer, Hani Al-Zitani and all journalists who are unjustly detained in Syria.”
Like his colleagues Hussein Ghreer and Hani Al-Zitani, who have also been released under the amnesty, Darwish is now awaiting the outcome of his trial on terrorism charges. After around 25 postponements since February 2013, a hearing is scheduled for 31 August.
The head of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Darwish was arrested along with Ghreer, Al-Zitani and other SCM colleagues when air-force intelligence officers raided the centre’s Damascus headquarters on 16 February 2012. During their three years of arbitrary detention, they were the victims of mistreatment, torture and enforced disappearance.
According to the tally kept by Reporters Without Borders, the Syrian government is holding at least 30 journalists and information activists in its many jails. At least 25 others, including six foreigners, are missing or are being held hostage by Islamic State or other armed extremist groups.
The world’s most dangerous country for journalists, Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.