London: An imprisoned Syrian journalist and human rights activist has won a major writing award celebrating free speech.
Mazen Darwish shares the PEN Pinter prize with India-born British novelist Salman Rushdie. The award was announced today at a ceremony in London.
Darwish was the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression when he was arrested in February 2012 along with two colleagues. The three have been charged with "publicising terrorist acts."
Rushdie said Darwish "courageously fought for civilised values free expression, human rights in one of the most dangerous places in the world." He said he hoped the prize would bolster calls for Darwish to be released.
The award was established in 2009 in memory of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter. It goes jointly to a British writer seen as sharing Pinter's "unflinching, unswerving" gaze on society, and an international writer who has faced persecution, chosen by the British winner and writers' organisation PEN.
Rushdie spent years in hiding after his novel "The Satanic Verses" drew a death edict from Iran's religious authorities.