Sentencing of SCM staff postponed again

Verdict against Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghrer and Hani Zaitani expected on 28 April

SCM

On 15 April 2015, the judge of the Damascus Anti-Terrorism court decided to postpone the trial of Mazen Darwish and four of his colleagues from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression to the date of 28 April 2015.

Mazen Darwish is the President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) and the winner of the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. He was arrested on 16 February 2012, when plain clothes Air Force Intelligence agents raided the office of the SCM in Damascus and arrested all present staff members. He is now on trial before the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court along with his colleagues Hussein Ghrer, Hani Zaitani, Mansour Omari, and Abd al-Rahman Hamada. Omari and Hamada were conditionally released on 6 February 2013 pending trial, but the other three men remain in detention.

The indictment in their case states that the charges were brought against them as a result of their activities as staff members of SCM. Their activities included monitoring online news of the Syrian opposition, publishing studies on the human rights and media situation in Syria, and documenting names of the detained, disappeared, wanted and killed within the context of the Syrian conflict. Although the government announced a general amnesty on 9 June 2014, that covered the charges against the men, they have not been freed.

The UN General Assembly, in resolution 67/262 of 15 May 2013 called for the release of the three men. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) also found that the three men had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty due to their human rights activities and called for their immediate release. UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on 22 February 2014, also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria. Despite these calls, Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghrer and Hani Zaitani remain in detention.

The three men were taken before the Anti-Terrorism Court in February 2013. Since then, the court has repeatedly postponed their trial. The next hearing is scheduled for 28 April 2015.

More information on this case

Journalist Mazen Darwish winner of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize“, UNESCO, 3 April 2015

Syrian Mazen Darwish named IPI World Press Freedom Hero“, International Press Institute, 26 February 2015

Free Human Rights Defenders Held 3 years“, 16 February 2015

“Mazen Darwish winner of the Pen/Pinter International Writer of Courage Award 2014″, 9 October 2014

“Dispatches: A Grim Prophesy, an Even Grimmer Reality in Syria”, 24 September 2014

“Free Prominent Rights Defenders”, 5 September 2014

“Trial of SCM members postponed”, 25 July 2014

“Activists Not Released Despite Amnesty”, 18 July 2014

“Opening of the trial against detained human rights defenders Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zaitani for terrorism”, 28 March 2014

“Syria : Free Key Rights Defenders”, 17 March 2014