All charges against Mazen Darwish and colleagues dropped

International Media Support welcomes the 31 August ruling by an anti-terrorism court in Damascus that Mazen Darwish and four members of his staff at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression are covered by a political amnesty issued in June 2014

Mazen Darwish is a renowned Syrian lawyer and advocate for free expression, internationally recognised as an invaluable source of information on the conflict in his country, and the recipient of UNESCO’s prestigious Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award in 2015.

He and his colleagues were facing up to 15 years in prison under article 8 of the 2012 anti-terrorism law on a charge of “publishing information about terrorists acts.”

Two of the five defendants were released provisionally in February 2013, while Darwish and the other two, Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghreer, had been granted a provisional release in the past six weeks – Zitani and Ghreer in mid-July and Darwish, who was being held by a different security department, on 10 August.

Yara Bader, Darwish’s wife and the director of Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), an organisation founded by Darwish in 2004 to protect media freedom and support journalists’ rights in Syria, shared the news with free expression groups late yesterday by email.

Darwish, a renowned Syrian journalist was freed on 10 August after spending nearly three-and-a-half years behind bars on spurious charges of “publicising terrorist acts”. Two of his SCM colleagues who had been detained with him, Hussein Ghrer and Hani Zaitani, were released last month.

All three were reportedly subject to ill-treatment and torture during their imprisonment and the court hearing the case against them had repeatedly declined to rule whether a June 2014 amnesty for political prisoners applied to their case.

Yara Bader told supporters yesterday that the decision that the amnesty applied would become final after 30 days and that the amnesty will also apply to Darwish’s co-defendants.