Syria arrests top blogger, rights activist: lawyer

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, February 16, 2012 16:56 EDT
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A Syrian boy holds up a protest sign. Image via AFP.
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BEIRUT — Security forces on Thursday arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi, symbol of the 11-month uprising in Syria, along with rights activist Mazen Darwish and 12 others, opposition figures said.

Human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni said Ghazzawi, 31, was arrested in an early afternoon raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, which is located in central Damascus and is headed by Darwish.

“We at the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies condemn these arrests and call on Syrian authorities to immediately release them,” Bunni said in a statement echoed by Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Opposition figure Louai Hussein also reported the arrests, saying Darwish’s wife, Yara Badr, was among those taken away.

“At about 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), Syrian security forces arrested him along with his wife and an employee,” Hussein said, adding the reason for their detention was unclear.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees said “the regime’s security forces, backed by armed operatives, raided the office of activist and journalist Mazen Darwish … in central Damascus after sealing off the area.”

Human rights activist Anwar Buni said Darwish, who heads the banned Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, was detained along with 13 other people.

“We at the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies condemn these arrests and call on Syrian authorities to immediately release them,” he said in a statement.

Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter have been a driving force in the 11-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which was inspired by the Arab awakening.

Ghazzawi, a Syrian-American, has written her “Razaniyyat” blog under her real name since 2009. Her Twitter feed — @RedRazan — is followed by more than 6,500 people.

As with Darwish, her arrest on Thursday is not the first time she has been detained since Syria’s uprising broke out last March. Both were later released.

Darwish, 38, has been detained a number of times, most recently last March, when he was held for a day after speaking out against the government crackdown on the southern province of Daraa.

His group is the only Syrian organisation specialising in media monitoring and Internet access, and has an advisory role at the UN Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC.

Officially shut down by the authorities four years go, he has kept it running without authorisation.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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