Beirut, December 10, 2019 — Malaysian authorities should disclose their reasons for holding Syrian Kurdish journalist Himbervan Kousa or release him immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 7, authorities at Kuala Lumpur International Airport arrested Kousa, a Syrian Kurdish freelance reporter based in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to news reports and a statement by the Syrian human rights organization Violations Documentation Center.
Malaysian authorities claim that Kousa is wanted by the Syrian government because of his work as a journalist, but have not disclosed any charges against him, according to those reports.
The Violations Documentation Center statement and a report by the Free Media Union, a Syrian journalists’ syndicate, expressed concern that Malaysian authorities could extradite Kousa to Damascus, where he could face government reprisal for his coverage. Malaysian law bars extradition for political crimes.
“We are very concerned about the arrest in Malaysia of the Kurdish Syrian journalist Himbervan Kousa and the lack of information about the reasons for his arrest,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the Malaysian authorities to immediately disclose any charges against Kousa or release him immediately.”
Kousa was traveling from Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, to Stuttgart, Germany, and was making a flight connection in Malaysia when he was detained, according to those news reports.
Kousa has contributed to several Kurdish and Arabic news websites, including Al-Monitor, Rok Online, The Levant News, and the investigative journalist website Daraj.
CPJ emailed and called Malaysia’s Immigration Department and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s Immigration Office for comment, but did not receive any responses.