After more than 3 years in prison

Syria frees rights defender Mazen Darwish

GMT 15:17 2015 Monday ,10 August

Arab Today, arab today Syria frees rights defender Mazen Darwish

Mazen Darwish has been released after more than 3 years in prison
Beirut - Arab Today

Prominent Syrian rights defender Mazen Darwish has been released after more than three years in prison pending a verdict in his case later this month, his wife told AFP Monday.

"He has been freed ahead of a final verdict in his case on August 21," Darwish's wife Yara Bader said.

The leading journalist and rights activist was arrested in February 2012 along with two colleagues from his Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.

The three were accused of "promoting terrorist acts" and held despite repeated calls from media and rights groups for their release.

They were moved between prisons several times, and court dates in their case were regularly postponed.

Darwish's colleagues Hussein Ghreir and Hani al-Zaitani were released last month in an amnesty announced as a gesture for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Bader said Darwish, who is in his early 40s, was supposed to benefit from the same amnesty, but his release was delayed.

Darwish has received multiple awards in acknowledgement of his work, including, in May, UNESCO's annual press freedom prize.

His wife accepted the award on his behalf, saying it was dedicated to his children in the hope they would grow up in a free Syria.

"We need a time to learn how to listen to people who have different opinions," she said.

"Mazen has already forgiven those who tortured him almost to death."

Some 200,000 people are held in Syrian government detention centres, prisons and security facilities, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Last year, President Bashar al-Assad signed an amnesty that was supposed to see tens of thousands of political prisoners freed, but rights activists say only several hundred were actually released.

Rights organisations and the United Nations have said torture is practised systematically in Syrian prisons, and photos purportedly taken inside the country's detention facilities have documented appalling abuses.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests inspired by similar uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East.

But after a government crackdown, the demonstrations spiralled into a violent conflict that has killed more than 240,000 people.
Source: AFP

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