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SYRIA: Al Jazeera journalist held

May 5, 2011 |  2:50 am

Parvaz300_lklfoznc Syrian officials have acknowledged that they have taken custody of Dorothy Parvaz, a reporter with the Al Jazeera English network who went missing after she arrived in Damascus on Friday, the satellite news network said, although it was unclear Thursday how her case would proceed.

“We are worried about Dorothy's welfare, security and safety. Syria should release her immediately," the network said in a statement.

Parvaz's family members told CNN they have had no direct contact with the 39-year-old since her Qatar Airways flight landed in Damascus.

“We're thankful for the official confirmation, it's a good first step which now allows U.S., Canadian and Iranian officials to take further action,“ said Parvaz's fiance, Todd Barker of Luxembourg.

“We trust that they will be treating her with the respect that she deserves," said Parvaz's father, Firouz Parvaz, of Vancouver, Canada.

Parvaz holds U.S., Canadian and Iranian citizenship and has worked for Al Jazeera since 2010.

Thousands of Parvaz's supporters have started a social media campaign to free her on Facebook's “Free Dorothy Parvaz" and Twitter's  #FreeDorothy.

Dozens of international journalists have been detained and expelled from Syria since March 15, when anti-government protests began, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa, told CNN.

Dayem said Syria's admission that it was holding Parvaz was a positive development.

“The announcement that they are indeed holding any given journalist is usually a precursor to them being released and expelled. Those two things always go hand in hand. Every international journalist who has been detained since March 15, once they are released, they are expelled," Dayem told CNN.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: Dorothy Parvaz, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter. Credit: Joshua Trujillo, AP