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Syrian Journalist Released After Years In Prison

Lucie Morillon, head of research at French watchdog of Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) holds a banner depicting Syrian human rights activist Mazen Darwish during a protest against violence in Syria, in Paris, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. Darwish was released from a Syrian prison Monday.

Several activists groups celebrated the release of Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and human rights activist, from prison on Monday. In a statement, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, which Darwish helped found, said, "After an arbitrary arrest that lasted three years, five months, and 23 days, Mazen Darwish has been released from prison today."

The AP reports Darwish was imprisoned for his reporting on President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protesters during the early days of an uprising against the presidency, which later became a full-blown civil war.

As we previously reported, Darwish was arrested in February 2012, after a raid on his offices in the capital Damascus. His detention was part of a sweeping arrest campaign of opposition activists and intellectuals by the Assad government. The AP reports Darwish was "one of the rare journalists who dared publish details of arbitrary arrests and violations by policy and security forces and became a symbol of the battle for human rights in Syria following his detention."

Dozens of human rights groups and the U.S. Department of State called for Darwish's release over the last three years. In a February statement, the State Department said:

"For three years, Darwish's powerful voice for reason and peace has been muted by a brutal Syrian regime intent on the complete repression of the civil and human rights of the Syrian people."

Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that during his detention, Darwish was subjected to "mistreatment, torture, and enforced disappearance."

Though Darwish has been released, the AP reports that he is still standing trial and has to appear in court on August 30th. Reporters Without Borders says his trial has been postponed about 25 times. The Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted today, "We're relieved to hear Mazen Darwish was released. But with him due back in court in two weeks, it's time to put this case to rest forever."

Reporters Without Borders says the Syrian government is holding at least 30 journalists and "information activists" in its jails.

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