May 18, 2011 / 8:10 PM / 9 years ago

Jazeera reporter held in Syria says heard beatings

DUBAI (Reuters) - An al Jazeera journalist who was detained in Syria three weeks ago and sent to Iran, said after being released and flown to Qatar on Wednesday that she could hear beatings “almost around the clock” in her Syrian jail.

Al Jazeera had sent Dorothy Parvaz, 39, to the Syrian capital Damascus to cover a wave of protests against the 41-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad and his family. She went missing on arrival and was detained in Syria and then in Iran.

“The beatings I heard almost around the clock were savage ... I heard two separate interrogations and beatings ... young men ... being beaten so harshly,” Parvaz told Al Jazeera of her time in detention in Syria.

“I don’t know what kind of answers they were expecting from these young men but all they got was ‘wallahi’ (swear to God) ‘wallahi’ or just ... ‘no, no’ or ‘please stop’ in Arabic.”

“I saw a man shackled to a radiator being forced, it seemed, to write a confession, but he was quivering so hard he couldn’t even write,” Parvaz said.

Al Jazeera said earlier in an online statement about Parvaz, who has U.S., Canadian and Iranian citizenship, that she was in good health and had arrived in the Qatari capital Doha.

“She landed in Doha, Qatar on May 18 on a flight from Iran,” al Jazeera said, adding that Parvaz had not been allowed any contact with the outside world since the channel lost touch with her after her arrival at Damascus Airport on April 29.

The Syrian embassy in Washington said last week that Parvaz had tried to enter Syria illegally on an expired Iranian passport with “tourism” declared as the reason for travel, but that she later admitted to providing false information.

Parvaz said Syrian authorities first suspected that she might be an Israeli spy, and were also suspicious about her claim to be working for al Jazeera.

Syria expelled her and put her on a plane to Iran on May 1.

Iran and Syria have a close relationship, and both support Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Palestinian movement Hamas whose exiled leaders live in Syria.

Parvaz’s disappearance sparked a widespread online campaign for her release, including a Twitter hash tag and a Facebook page “Free Dorothy Parvaz.”

Al Jazeera said that Parvaz’s fiance, Todd Barker, posted on Facebook: “She is safe in Doha and will be coming to Vancouver, B.C. soon. We can’t wait to see her.”

Barker said she had been put in solitary confinement in Evin prison in Tehran and was questioned, but treated respectfully, according to the Seattle Times, where she once worked.

“The family and me are elated, and we’re really grateful to the Iranian authorities who treated her very respectfully. It’s over,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Writing by Erika Solomon; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Tim Pearce

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