20 May 2009

Michel Kilo released

Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo

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Journalist Michel Kilo was released from prison last week after completing a three-year prison sentence, but was immediately detained for five days, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Kilo was released from Adra prison in Damascus on 14 May, but was then brought to the Damascus headquarters of the intelligence services. He was finally let go on 19 May. According to RSF, he is in ill health.

Kilo was arrested on 14 May 2006 after signing the Beirut-Damascus Declaration, an appeal for a radical overhaul of relations between Syria and Lebanon, and sentenced to three years in prison for "undermining national sentiment." He was made to serve the entire sentence although a judge ruled in favour of early release. He was awarded the British Parliamentary Press Gallery prize in October 2008.

Syria has a long history of prosecuting political activists who peacefully express their opinions. A wave of arrests followed a December 2007 meeting by pro-democracy activists. More than a dozen of them, including three journalists, were sentenced last October to more than two years in prison for "weakening national sentiment". They were members of the Damascus Declaration, a loose coalition of political parties and independent activists that calls for peaceful democratic change in Syria.

At least four journalists and bloggers are among many dissidents in jail in Syria, which was ranked 159th out of 173 countries in RSF's 2009 press freedom index.

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