International PEN welcomes the May 19, 2009 release of Syrian writer Michel Kilo. He was sentenced to three years in prison on May 13, 2007 for his dissident writings and pro-reform activities, and was freed upon completion of his sentence.

According to press reports, Michel Kilo was released from Adra Prison in Damascus on May 14, 2009 at midnight. He was held for interrogation at the Intelligence Services headquarters in Damascus until May 19, 2009, then allowed to return home. He is said to be in good health.

Background Information

Prominent writer and journalist Michel Kilo had contributed to the leading Lebanese daily Al-Nahar and the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He was among 10 Syrian civil society activists to have been arrested in May 2006 for signing the “Beirut-Damascus Declaration” of May 12, 2006, calling for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria based on respect for each country’s sovereignty. Several hundred Syrian and Lebanese nationals signed the agreement.

Michel Kilo was issued a provisional release order by a judge on October 19, 2006, but his release was obstructed by new charges filed by the prosecution on October 23, 2006. He was convicted by the Damascus Criminal Court on May 13, 2007 on charges of “spreading false news, weakening national feeling and inciting sectarian sentiments” for his dissident writings and pro-reform activities.

Michel Kilo has been subjected to persistent harassment by the Syrian authorities over the years as a result of his work in support of democratic rights.

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Thank you to all who took action on this case.