Damascus hands German journalist to Russia envoy

5th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad on Tuesday handed over to the Russian ambassador a German journalist, Billy Six, whose employers said had been out of contact for almost four months.

"The aim of the meeting is to hand over the German journalist to the Russian ambassador," Muqdad said at a press conference in Damascus.

"As (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov asked us to mediate and solve the problem of German journalist Billy Six's release, we told him we were ready to help, though we once again expressed our reservations about those entering illegally into Syria," said Muqdad.

Six shook hands with Muqdad and Russian ambassador Azamatullah Kol Mohamadov after the two men addressed journalists.

A spokesman for Six's employer Junge Freiheit told AFP in Berlin that he is one of 200 independent journalists working for the weekly, which has an average of 50,000 readers.

"He worked for us last year in Syria. His first article was dated August 22, 2012, and his last on November 19," Bastian Behrens said.

"After that, we lost contact with him. We heard from other journalists that he was imprisoned but we did not know why," Behrens added, giving his age at about 26.

Muqdad gave no further details concerning the reporter, and did not say whether he had been imprisoned.

Meanwhile the German foreign ministry told AFP it had been working "very intensely" to secure the release of one of its citizens.

"We can only confirm that we are working very intensely to solve the case of a German citizen who has been reportedly missing in Syria," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP, without providing any further details.

International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has described Syria as the world's most dangerous country for journalists.

© 2013 AFP

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