PEN International welcomes the release of several dissident writers as part of a presidential amnesty announced on June 2, 2011. Protestors had called for the release of all political prisoners in Syria, as well as other political reforms. Those released include writer, journalist, and activist ‘Ali al-Abdullah, lawyer and writer Muhannad al-Hassani, novelist Raghdah Sa’id Hassan (f), poet and lawyer Mustafa Ismail, and writers Husam ‘Ali Mulhim and Tarek Al-Gorani. 

Background Information

PEN is now able to confirm that the following people have been included in the presidential amnesty announced on June 2, 2011:

Freelance journalist and activist ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah was arrested on January 3, 2008, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison for “publishing false information with the aim of harming the state,” “membership of a secret organiZation designed to destabiliZe the state” and “inciting ethnic and racial hatred” for his peaceful dissident activities and writings. Ali Al-Abdullah was due to be released on June 17, 2010, after serving his sentence, but remained detained after new charges were brought against him on June 18, 2010, for an article he wrote while in prison. He was sentenced on February 7, 2011, to three years in prison, reduced to one and a half years on appeal by a military court in Damascus, for “disseminating false information with the aim of harming the state.” He was released on June 4, 2011, under a presidential amnesty.  Ali al-Abdullah remains under threat, and was re-arrested on July 15, 2011, for writing another critical article, though was later released without charge. He has recently undergone heart surgery and is said to be in frail health.

Novelist Raghdah Sa'id HASSAN (f) was arrested on February 10, 2010, after writing her first unpublished novel. She was held without charge until her release on June 2, 2011.

Muhannad AL-HASSANI: Lawyer and writer. Co-founder of the Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiyah). Arrested on July 28, 2009, and sentenced to three years in prison by the Damascus Criminal Court on charges of “weakening the national sentiment” and “spreading false news.” These charges are commonly used against government critics. Released on June 4, 2011, as part of a presidential amnesty.

Mustafa ISMAIL: Well-known poet, contributor to various Arabic language web sites, and lawyer. Reportedly arrested on December 12, 2009 for publishing critical articles on the treatment of Kurds in Syria and in Turkey. Held in Central Aleppo Prison until his release on June 4, 2011. 

Husam ‘Ali MULHIM and Tarek Al-GORANI: Dissident writer and poet, and writer and blogger, respectively. Mulhim and Al-Gorani were arrested in early 2006 for developing a youth discussion group and publishing pro-democracy articles on the Internet. They were held in Sednaya military prison, near Damascus, until their release on June 4, 2011.

Send Your Letter To

No further action is required at present. Thank you for campaigning on these cases.