CPJ Calls for Release of Syrian Journalist Nizar Nayyouf

Imprisoned Editor Gravely Ill, in Desperate Need of Medical Treatment

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New York, N.Y., Sept. 29 -- In a letter hand-delivered today to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urgently appealed to the Syrian government to release Nizar Nayyouf, the imprisoned journalist, writer, and human rights activist, and to ensure that he receive immediate and thorough medical attention.

Nayyouf is gravely ill and may die unless he receives immediate treatment for Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer that can be successfully treated with proper medical attention. Syrian authorities have reportedly refused him treatment for this disease unless he pledges to refrain from political activity and renounces alleged "false statements" he made about the human rights situation in Syria.

CPJ's Vice Chairman Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press correspondent who was held hostage by Islamist militants in Lebanon for seven years, said: "Nizar Nayyouf has committed no recognizable offense under international law. He is in prison solely for practicing his right to free expression by speaking out about human rights in Syria. In light of Mr. Nayyouf's grave illness, CPJ calls on the Syrian government to release him from prison immediately on humanitarian grounds and ensure that he receives immediate and thorough medical attention."

Nayyouf, a leading member of the independent Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF) and editor in chief of its monthly Sawt al-Democratiyya, was arrested in January 1992 and later convicted by the Supreme State Security Court of being a member of an unauthorized organization and of disseminating false information. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement at Mezze military prison in Damascus.

In addition to Hodgkin's disease, Mr. Nayyouf suffers from several other serious ailments, including partial paralysis of his legs, kidney failure, and deteriorating eyesight.

Click here to read a copy of the letter that was hand-delivered to Foreign Minister al-Sharaa.

Click here to add your voice to the campaign to free Nizar Nayyouf.