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Bureau chief of pan-Arab daily arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - On 27 December 2002, RSF called for the immediate release of Syrian national Ibrahim Hamidi, age 33, who was arrested in Syria on 23 December. Hamidi is the Damascus bureau chief for the pan-Arab daily newspaper "Al-Hayat". On 27 December the government news agency SANA announced that the journalist would be tried for "publishing false news."

"In fact, he was arrested for publishing the truth and being too professional in his work," said a spokesman for the London-based "Al-Hayat". "We are very worried about the conditions of his detention and also because Syrian law provides for one to three years' imprisonment for publishing allegedly false news."

In a 20 December article, Hamidi reported on preparations by Syrian authorities and the United Nations to receive one million Iraqi refugees in northeastern Syria, if Iraq is attacked. On 24 December, the newspaper printed a denial by a spokesman for Syrian Prime Minister Mohamed Mustapha Miro stating that neither Syria nor the Red Crescent were setting up hospitals and camps along the Iraqi border.

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