His Excellency Hafez al-Assad
c/o H. E. Ambassador Riad Siage
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic

Vienna, 22 September 1998

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI) the global network of editors and media executives, is most concerned about the fate of Nizar Nayyouf, a journalist and human rights activist, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in a Damascus military prison.

Mr. Nayyouf, a leading member of the Independent Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria and editor-in-chief of its monthly, Sawt al-Democratiyya, was arrested in January 1992 following a government crackdown on Syria’s human rights movement and sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 1992. We are informed that he is gravely ill and may die unless he receives immediate treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, but has been denied medical treatment unless he pledges to refrain from political activity and admits that he made “false” statement about the human rights situation in Syria.

Nizar Nayyouf has committed no offence. He has been tortured, unfairly tried and held in solitary confinement for many years solely for practicing his right to free expression. We therefore urge Your Excellency to ensure that he receives the necessary medical treatment and that he is released immediately and unconditionally.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz