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Syrian Documentary Producer Orwa Nyrabia Is Freed; Was Arrested Two Weeks Ago

A Syrian documentary film producer whose disappearance two weeks ago prompted concerns for his safety and a letter of support from the Toronto International Film Festival is now free, according to reports.

The European Documentary Network website announced today that, "Finally the good news came, that Orwa Nyrabia, Syrian film producer and director of the Syrian film festival DOX BOX, who was arrested August 23 at Damascus International Airport, has been set free."

The site had no more details about Nyrabia or where he spent the more than two weeks since he disappeared at the airport. But it is widely believed that he was in the custody of Syria's intelligence services. Nyrabia had been bound for Cairo; alarm over his disappearance spread after his wife, Diana El-Jeiroudi, was told that he never boarded his flight.

Last week, the Toronto International Film Festival expressed what it called "grave concern" for Nyrabia. A statement from the festival noted that "Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom."

Celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, and Danny Boyle have called for Nyrabia's release, using both letters and a video. And today, actor Khalid Abdalla tweeted that he had been in touch with Nyrabia since his release: "Orwa is out. Confirmed. Spoke to him. He sounds beautiful, as always."

News of his release was welcomed by attendees at the Toronto festival. And it came days after the death of Syrian filmmaker Tamer al-Awam, who died in Aleppo, "where he was filming the bombardment of civilian neighborhoods," as The New York Times reported.

Nyrabia runs the DOX BOX festival, which brings international documentaries to Syria. The festival was essentially cancelled this spring, as organizers decided to send the films to other festivals around the world, in light of the violence that by then had taken hold in Syria.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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