Journalist and human rights defender Mazen Darwish is the founding President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Founded in 2004, the SCM works to promote freedom of opinion and expression and, since the uprising began in 2011, has documented the human rights abuses taking place in Syria. Darwish was arrested on 16 February 2012, alongside bloggers and SCM members Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, after their offices were raided by Air Force Intelligence officers. In March 2014 the General Prosecutor of the Anti-Terrorism Court of Damascus presented charges against Mazen Darwish of ‘publicising terrorist acts’ under Article 8 of the 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law. If convicted, he faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
In June 2014, the Syrian government announced an amnesty for political prisoners, including for the charges that Darwish and his colleagues are facing. However, despite this pledge and continued lobbying by the international community, nearly four months later all three men remain detained.
Darwish’s lawyers have highlighted several procedural irregularities, including the absence of an arrest warrant. Furthermore, the trial has failed to comply with international standards and has been subject to excessive delays, most recently on 1 October. According to PEN’s information, the hearing was postponed once again and is now expected to take place on 5 November.
There are also widespread concerns that Darwish and his co-defendants have been tortured and ill-treated in detention, and that evidence extracted under torture may be used against them. There has been no official investigation into these allegations.
English PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mazen Darwish, Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, and for the allegations of torture and ill-treatment to be investigated as a matter of urgency.
- Share details of their case on social media using the hashtag #FreeSYVoices, and call on the Syrian authorities (@Presidency_Sy) to release them immediately;
- Send a message of support to Mazen Darwish and his family via firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mazen Darwish is among the nominees for the 2014 Human Rights Tulip – you can show your support by voting for him here;
- Visit the Free Syria’s Silenced Voices website for more information and suggested actions.