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Syria: trial of five media activists for 'terrorist acts' condemned

Amnesty international has condemned the forthcoming trial of five media activists in Syria who face charges of “propagating terrorist acts” before an unfair court on 19 May.

The five are independent activists from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression who were arrested in a raid on the centre in February 2012 and have been detained arbitrarily and in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance since then.

They include the centre’s director, Mazen Darwish, who like the others is charged with “propagating terrorist acts” for his human rights and media activities in response to the ongoing conflict in Syria. The five face trial at Syria’s recently established Anti-Terrorism Court, where proceedings appear to fall far short of international standards over fair trials. 

José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International’s UN Representative in New York, said:

“The pending trial of Mazen Darwish and his fellow human rights activists on terrorism-related charges is indicative of how the respect for human rights has been trampled amid the ongoing armed conflict in Syria.

“The international community - in particular Syria’s allies - must pressure the al-Assad government into halting this persecution of human rights defenders and ensure the release of all prisoners of conscience still being held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or assembly.”

Amnesty has repeatedly called for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on dissent in the country, which has led to the detention of tens of thousands of people for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly - with many of them held incommunicado or put at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Among those targeted have been a large number of human rights activists.

Bashar al-Assad’s government has granted several general prisoner amnesties since the armed conflict began, but Amnesty has been following the cases of dozens of prisoners of conscience who have not been affected by the measures and remain behind bars in what are believed to be terrible conditions.

Earlier this month Amnesty published a 56-page report - Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted by all sides in Syria - detailing dozens of cases of journalists and media workers attacked or detained since the 2011 uprising began in an attempt to prevent them from reporting on the unfolding situation in Syria.

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