Syria: Syria: GCHR welcomes release of human rights defender Mazen Darwish

10.08.15

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that, after almost three and a half years in Syrian prisons, journalist and human rights defender Mazen Darwish was finally freed on 10 August 2015. However, GCHR continues to insist that charges against Darwish, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression (SCM), and his colleagues must be dropped. The next hearing is on 31 August 2015 for a verdict in the case.

After a 23-day delay, the Syrian authorities finally released Darwish following the special presidential amnesty issued on 18 July 2015 at the end of Ramadan, which led to hundreds of prisoners being released, including SCM colleagues Hussein Gharir and Hani Al-Zitani. This follows a presidential decree in June 2014 that should have led to an amnesty for SCM staff in accordance with Article No. 8 of the Terrorism Act promulgated in April 2012. The SCM staff were charged under the Act for "the promotion of terrorist acts."

“Everyone knows that Mazen and his colleagues were arrested because of their human rights activities,” says Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Co-Director. “We call on the Syrian government to end this farce and let SCM staff resume their work freely so they can contribute to a better future for Syria.”

Gharir and Al-Zitani were released from Hama prison on 17 and 18 July 2015 respectively, yet Darwish continued to be held at the State Security Department number 285 in Damascus while the authorities carried out a security check. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1051

The three men had been detained since 16 February 2012 following a raid by the Syrian Air Forces on the offices of the SCM, a non-governmental organisation working to disseminate information regarding the human rights situation in Syria. Other members who were also detained were released later. Darwish is a well-known media freedom advocate who won the UNESCO Cano World Press Freedom Day Prize in 2015, and the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize in 2012.