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Syria March 3, 2006
H.E. Bashar al-Assad
Office of the President
Syrian Arab Republic
We write to protest the arrest and prosecution of journalist, Adel Mahfouz, in connection with the current controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Mahfouz was arrested on February 7, after he published the article on the independent daily news, Web site, Rezgar , and charged with insulting public religious sentiment under the penal code. If convicted, he faces up to three years imprisonment.
We find his case particularly dismaying since the article he wrote advocated peaceful dialogue instead of violent protests as a means of dealing with the cartoons. The message conveyed by his prosecution is that your government endorses the violence that has convulsed the Muslim world in recent weeks — an impression that Syria ‘s recent record of suppression of independent media does nothing to contradict. As an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, the Overseas Press Club of America asks you again to re-consider your policies.
Your Excellency, this controversy has been provocative in its origins, mischievous in its exploitation and tragic in its consequences. We hope it may subside without further damage. But it would be harmful indeed if the episode served to justify suppression of the basic human right of freedom of expression. We hope you will support moderation and non-violence in protesting the cartoons, and you can best signal this support by dropping the charges against Adel Mahfouz.
Thank you for your attention. We hope you will reply.
Co-chairs, Freedom of the Press Committee
cc: Muhammad Naji al-Utri
Office of the Prime Minister
Syrian Arab Republic
Ambassador of Syria to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic
2215 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20008
Fax: (202) 234-9548
Ambassador Faisal Miqdad
Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic
to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue , 15 th Floor
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 983-4439
U.S. Ambassador to Syria
Embassy of the United States of America
2, Al-Mansour Street
Fax: (011.963.11) 224-7938
(OR : U.S. Embassy – Syria
P.O. Box 29)