Journalists petition for colleague’s release

Your Excellency:

We the undersigned join the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in protesting the detention of our colleague Ibrahim Hemaidi, the Damascus bureau chief for the London-based daily Al-Hayat.

Syrian authorities arrested Hemaidi on December 23, 2002, because of an article he wrote for Al-Hayat about alleged preparations by the Syrian government for an expected influx of Iraqi refugees in the event a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. The authorities have accused him of “publishing false information,” and if prosecuted and convicted, he faces a prison sentence and heavy fines.

Hemaidi is a respected journalist, and those of us who know him can attest to the professionalism he brings to his work. We find it unacceptable that he is being deprived of his liberty and faces the prospect of criminal sanction simply for doing his job. Arresting journalists because of what they write violates accepted basic international norms of freedom of expression.

We call on you to ensure that Ibrahim Hemaidi is released at once and that any pending criminal charges against him are dismissed.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely, George Semaan, Al-Hayat
Abdel Wahab Badrakhan, Al-Hayat Raghida Dergham,-Al Hayat
Hisham Milhem
Omar Belhouchet, El-Watan
Ali Djerri, El-Khabar
Abdel Bari Atwan, Al-Quds al-Arabi
Jamil Mroueh, The Daily Star
Fawzi al-Asmar
Daoud Kuttab, Institute of Modern Media, Al-Quds University
Hafez al-Mirazi
M’hamed Krichene
Hisham Kassem, Cairo Times

Mansour al-Jamri, Al-Wasat (Bahrain)
Hisham Bashraheel, Al-Ayyam (Yemen)
Bashraheel Bashraheel, Al-Ayyam (Yemen)
Aboubakr Jamai, Le Journal Hebdomadaire
Ali Ammar, Assahifa al-Ousbouia
Aziz Gougas, Assahifa al-Ousbouia
Kamel Eddine Labidi
Faisal Metawi, El-Watan (Algeria)
Yahyia Shukkeir, Al-Arab al-Youm
Ali al-Atabani, Al-Rai al-Aam (Sudan)
Ann Cooper, CPJ