The disturbing ‘confession’ of Ali Othman

Syrian journalist paraded for ‘entertainment’ on state TV, friends say has been tortured and forced to confess…

On March 28 video activist Ali Mahmoud Othman, head of the media office of Baba Amr in Homs, was arrested. Fellow activists believe he has been subjected to severe torture since his arrest. On April 25, Syrian state television announced an exclusive interview with Othman.

In the preview that was broadcast by state television Addounia, Ali is seen first inside his cell, and then coming out to talk to interviewer Rafiq Lutif, accompanied by dramatic music and a headline announcing “Stay tuned… Inside Baba Amr” (the area of Homs that has faced an onslaught by regime forces). Recording forced “confessions” of detainees is a very common practice in Syria, as a way to discourage others from joining the opposition.

The video (above), which can be seen both on Facebook and YouTube, speaks for itself.

Othman, known among his friends as “Al Jed” (the Grandfather), was originally a vegetable vendor and has been documenting unrest in Homs since the beginning of the Syrian uprising. He was instrumental in assisting those covering the conflict from Baba Amr, helping evacuate international journalists from inside the neighborhood. He decided to stay in Baba Amr even after the Syrian army re-captured the neighborhood.

An “online demonstration” in solidarity with Othman took place on Saturday April 28, with the slogan “We are all heroic activist Ali Mahmoud Othman”. According to the Baba Amro News Facebook page:

Syrian media have used Ali and told people to stay tuned for a show that will expose “the secrets of Baba Amr”. We know what Ali looked like and we knew what his weight was, he has clearly been tortured and treated badly. And now he will not be tried in court, no, he will be displayed on TV.

Spanish journalist Mónica G. Prieto tweeted:

@monicagprieto: Pathetic. Al Jed, head of the #BabaAmr citizen journalist team, is forced to “confess” his crimes on TV

Some netizens have expressed relief at the news that Othman is alive, as there is still no news of others who have been detained. Free Syrian tweeted:

@HamaEcho: Activists Noura al-Jizawi and Ali Othman are still arrested, but at least we know Ali is still alive. Two Turkish journalists still missing.

Netizens continue to call for Othman´s release through this online petition.

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared at Global Voices Online