March 19, 2012 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Wave of arrests in run-up to anniversary of uprising

Many people, including journalists and bloggers, were arrested in the run-up to the 15 March anniversary of the Syrian uprising. The lawyer and blogger Rudy Othman was among the new detainees. He was arrested on Hamra Street in Damascus on 15 March for the third time since the start of the protests. The blogger and activist Jamal Al-Omar was arrested at the Lebanese border the same day as he returned from Beirut. The blogger Muhammed Abu Hajar was arrested in the Mediterranean-coast city of Tartus on 14 March because of what he has been writing in his blog “Mazaj.” Ahmad Salal, a journalist who was arrested on 12 February, was meanwhile released yesterday. As already reported, the 12 young people who were arrested on the evening of 7 March in the restaurant Niniar, in the Damascus neighbourhood of Bab Sharqi, included Yara Michel Shammas, 20, an information technology specialist who is the daughter of Michel Shammas, a human rights lawyer active on Facebook, Jehad Jamal, a blogger known by the name of 'Milan', who had been released on 29 December after two and a half months in detention, and Etab Labbad, a 20-year-old journalism student who has worked with various newspapers and websites such as Kassioun and Baladna. The authorities are still holding eight of the 16 people who were arrested during a 16 February raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. They are Mazen Darwish (the head of the centre), Hussein Gharer, Hani Zetani, Joan Farso, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Mansour Al-Omari, Abdelrahman Hamada and Ayham Ghazzoul. Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for their release. The latest member of the original 16 to be freed was Shady Yazbek, on 12 March. There is still no news of two Turkish journalists – Adem Özköse, a reporter for the magazine Gerçek Hayat and the daily Milat, and cameraman Hamit Coşkun – who were abducted by Shabiha militiamen near the northwestern city of Idlib on 10 March and then handed over to members of the Syrian intelligence services.