English PEN, PEN International and author Salman Rushdie have welcomed the release of Syrian activist and journalist Mazen Darwish from prison after more than three years.
Darwish, winner of the 2014 PEN Pinter Prize for international writer of courage, is founding president of the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression (SCM).
Darwish was detained along with colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Huseein Gharir in February 2012, when Syrian Air Force Intelligence raided the offices of SCM. The three men were detained without trial. Al-Zitani and Gharir were released last month as part of a presidential pardon, but continue to face criminal charges. Darwish was released from prison yesterday (10th August) pending a trial hearing on 31 August.
Rushdie, who chose to share the 2014 PEN Pinter Prize with Darwish, said: “I’m delighted by this good news – congratulations to Mazen Darwish and his family, and to English PEN for so energetically, and successfully, highlighting and pursuing his case.”
Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said: "This is wonderful news. We are so relieved that Mazen Darwish has finally been released, and happy for Mazen and his wife Yara Bader. Yara has been a great inspiration to us all throughout the campaign for his release and we hope that they will be reunited very soon. However, we also remain concerned for Mazen and his colleagues Hani al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir and will continue to call for charges against them to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.”
Marian Botsford Fraser, chair of PEN Internationals’ Writers in Prison committee, added: “The Syrian authorities’ relentless crackdown on journalists and human rights activists must stop. The release of Mazen Darwish is a small step to ending this injustice. All charges against him, his colleagues and others who are imprisoned solely for peaceful exercise of freedom of expression must be dropped immediately.”