March 26, 2012

Ambassador Imad Moustapha
Embassy of Syria
2215 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 265-4585

Dear Ambassador Moustapha,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the arrest of poet and blogger Dia’a al-Abdullah.

According to our information, on February 13, 2012, Dia’a al-Abdullah was taken from his home by the Air Force’s secret services after he published an open letter on Facebook entitled “As a Syrian Citizen I Announce,” in which he calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. The letter is in response to the excessive force used by security officials against civilians since the start of anti-government protests in mid-March 2011. Thousands of civilians have been killed and many more wounded. Syrian authorities have also imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, curtailing the Internet and independent media. Al-Abdullah’s current whereabouts and his present condition are unknown.

Dia’a al-Abdullah was previously detained and interrogated for his writing on June 29, 2011, and was held incommunicado until his release on January 13, 2012. He reported that he was severely tortured in detention. He was also arrested in 1999 and held for one year without charge after publishing a collection of poems.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the safety and whereabouts of Dia’a al-Abdullah, who was arrested in the crackdown on protesters and in the midst of heightened restrictions of freedom of expression, which have been escalating since March 2011. We seek assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention in violation of Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the ICCPR, to which Syria is a signatory.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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