News

Syria Frees Detained Filmmaker, Russian Prime Minister Calls for Pussy Riot’s Release

by Jillian Steinhauer on September 14, 2012

Orwa Nyrabia (image via realscreen.com) (click to enlarge)

It looks like the pressure from directors, actors, and high-profile members of the film community around the world has worked: Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia, who went missing a few weeks ago, has been freed.

Nyrabia is one of Syria’s most important filmmakers, co-founding the only independent documentary-film company in the country, Proaction Film, as well as DoxBox, reportedly the largest documentary film festival in the region. Nyrabia was detained by Syrian authorities at an airport before he was supposed to board a flight to Cairo, and many feared that he would be tortured and face indefinite detainment.

The New Yorker‘s News Desk blog has a written statement on behalf of the filmmakers who called for Nyrabia’s release. Its opening paragraph offers a few more details about what happened to him:

Orwa Nyrabia, the Syrian filmmaker who was abducted on August 23rd, was released by the Syrian government today. He had been taken by Military Security, but was turned over to a civilian court yesterday, which reviewed his case and freed him. Family members say that he is strong and in good spirits.

Also in our favorite news category — I’ll take artists and repressive governments for 200, please! — Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for the release of jailed feminist punk band Pussy Riot on Wednesday, saying in a televised meeting with members of his political party: “In my view, a suspended sentence would be sufficient, taking into account the time they have already spent in custody.”

But lest anyone think Medvedev actually supports the women and their anti-government protests, the prime minister threw in some tempering remarks. The Associated Press reports:

The outward appearance of the women, who perform in bright-colored miniskirts and balaclavas, and the “hysteria” accompanying them made him sick, Medvedev said with disdain. But he said keeping them in prison any longer would be “unproductive.”

Considering Medvedev’s attitude, combined with the airing, the night before his comments, of a program denouncing Pussy Riot on state television, it’s clear that Russia’s got a much bigger problem than just three young women in brightly colored balaclavas singing anti-Putin songs. But freeing Pussy Riot would be a good first step towards addressing it.

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