Syria : Arbitrary detention of Ma’an Aqil

Forces from General Intelligence Directorate arrested Ma’an Aqil from his office at Al-Thawra newspaper in Damascus on 22 November 2009. He was originally arrested in 1987 for his political beliefs and spent nine years in prison.

Ma’an Aqil is a prominent journalist in Syria, known for his investigations into corruption within government and privately-owned pharmaceutical companies. According to Alkarama’s sources, Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, head of the General Intelligence Services in Damascus, interrogated Ma’an Aqil regarding his investigations.

He reappeared at his home on 25 November 2009 in the custody of officers from the General Intelligence Directorate. The officers seized various documents and tampered with the contents of his home. Ma’an Aqil, handcuffed and visibly shaken at the time, told his family not to contact him or look for him for one month, before he was taken away. His family still has no idea where he is detained.

Ma’an Aqil arrest comes within the context of an intimidation campaign waged by the Syrian authorities against bloggers and journalists, accusing them of threatening public security and weaken the national sentiment. The Syrian authorities are not looking only to maintain its influence, but to prevent anyone from threatening its control.

Alkarama requests that the Syrian authorities to release Ma’an Aqil and to stop pursuing journalists and bloggers, in order that their freedoms be guaranteed as established by the Syrian constitution. Alkarama will submit Ma’an Aqil’s case to the United Nations special procedures in due course.