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Middle east

Journalist released from Syrian detention describes harrowing ordeal

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-05-10

Days after he was released from a Syrian jail where he was detained for 23 days, journalist Khaled Sid Mohand (pictured) told FRANCE 24 he was beaten up only for the first few days. His fellow detainees however were not as fortunate, he said.

Khaled Sid Mohand is one of the few foreign journalists who can bear testimony to the repression of the Syrian regime against protesters who for weeks have been calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. On Saturday, the freelance journalist who works for a French public radio station and a leading French daily, returned to France after a 23-day detention in a Syrian jail.

“In a way I would say I can’t complain. I was beaten up a little bit during the first couple of days, but then they never touched me again,” said Mohand, an Algerian national who works for France Culture radio and the daily newspaper, Le Monde.

“The psychological torture was hearing the screams of all the other detainees,” Mohand told FRANCE 24 on Tuesday. “Any time they would take a detainee from his cell you would hear him scream like hell. Sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes as long as an hour.”

Mohand was arrested in the Syrian capital of Damascus on April 9 and incarcerated in a tiny prison cell. Syrian authorities have provided no reasons for his arrest.

Coverage of the demonstrations has been tightly controlled in Syria since the outbreak of anti-regime protests in mid-March, with few foreign reporters allowed into the country. The media blackout has forced international news organisations to rely on amateur video footage from troubled Syrian towns and cities posted on Web sites such as YouTube.

Since the protests broke out earlier this year, a number of foreign reporters have been detained – some have been released and expelled from the country.

On Tuesday, the Arabic Al Jazeera TV station said the whereabouts of its journalist Dorothy Parvez - who had been detained by Syrian authorities - were still unknown, although a Syrian pro-regime daily reported that she had left the country.

"The Syrian authorities have not given us any information on what happened to Dorothy after she arrived in Damascus," said a statement released by the news station. "This burden therefore rests on them and we continue to demand that they release her."

Mohand’s account remains one of the few accounts by a western journalist of the conditions of detainees in Syria.

“I was scared to have to give the names of the people I had interviewed before. This was a major concern,” he told FRANCE 24. The journalist also expressed concern about his sources in Syria who would now be scared of getting in touch with him.

Mohand was released after diplomatic efforts by the French and Algerian embassies in Damascus.

Date created : 2011-05-10

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