A military judge in Damascus issued a verdict releasing Syrian Center of Media and Freedom of Expression members Yara Bader, Razan Ghazzawi, Sana’ Zitani, Mayada Al-Khalil, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Juan Farso, and Ayham Ghazzoul for time served.
The judge also dismissed charges against activist Hanadi Zahloul, indicating that she had merely been a visitor at the Center at the time it was stormed and its members were arrested.
It should be noted that on February 16, 2012, the Air Force Intelligence Service stormed the Center’s headquarters, arresting four staff members and several visitors. Three days after the arrests, activists Hanadi Zahloot, Razan Ghazzawi, Sana’ Zitani, Mayada Khalil, and journalist Yara Badr (the wife of journalist Mazan Darwish) were released, only to be arrested again on April 22. They were subsequently transferred to a military court along with staff members Ayham Ghazzool, Juan Farso, and Bassam Al-Ahmad, who were held in Adra Prison for 20 days before they were tried and released.
The aforementioned detainees were charged with inciting demonstrations and illegal possession of leaflets with intent to distribute, in accordance with the provisions of Article 335 of the Peaceful Protest Law of 2011 and Article 148 of the Military Penal Law.
The military judge had issued to the Air Force Intelligence Service a formal request for information regarding the Center’s operating license. The judge had further requested that Mazen Darwish, a journalist, serve as a public witness. However, the case had to be postponed several times due to the Air Force Intelligence Service’s failure to respond to the request until August 8, 2012. The Center had been practicing without a license; the judge therefore decided to overlook the request and proceed with the trial.
The fate of the five detainees, Mazen Darwish, Hassan Gharir, Abdulrahman Hamada, Hani Al-Zetani, and Mansour Al-Omari, is still unknown. Leaked information indicates that blogger Hussein Gharir was transferred to the Air Force Intelligence headquarters at Tahrir Square and that he has started a hunger strike. In addition, it is believed that Mazen Darwish and his colleagues were transferred to the Fourth Division headquarters in Mazzeh