LONDON – CAGE is concerned about the welfare of US journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, and his driver Abu Muhammad, who were taken into custody by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) on Thursday night in the northern Syrian town of Atmeh.
Bilal has been reporting from rebel-held Syria where he has resided since 2012 and runs the only consistent English-language news outlet in the region, OGN. Bilal has also sought legal representation from British human rights group Reprieve following a number of drone strikes that hit near OGN offices and destroyed their vehicles.
In recent weeks, Bilal had been highlighting the case of British aid worker Tauqir “Tox” Sharif who was taken into custody and held for several weeks. Tauqir accused HTS officials of torturing him whilst he was in their custody. Shortly after reporting details of this, Bilal was seized by HTS.
CAGE thus calls on HTS authorities to immediately release both Bilal Abdul Kareem and Tauqir Sharif, along with their drivers Muayad and Abu Muhammad, and grant assurances that none of them will be tortured in the interim.
CAGE outreach director Moazzam Begg said:
“I have known Bilal for many years and discussed with him in detail how to tackle issues surrounding lack of prisoner’s rights and due process in liberated areas along with the use of torture. I have heard first-hand details of Tox’s torture. And now, the one voice that spoke up against this behaviour is facing the very thing he opposed.
“This matter needs to be resolved with impartial adjudicators to prevent any further escalation. The process must have the confidence of all parties and all must be accountable before the law.”
Bilal Abdul Kareem’s wife, Umm Layla said:
“My husband and his driver were taken captive after being beaten. They even hit his step son who was with him. He’s only 13 years old. Bilal defends the rights of prisoners and captives and I have no idea where he is or his condition.”
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)