VARIOUS OUTLETS, including some within the comics community, have reported in recent days that Syrian political cartoonist Akram Raslan is dead, allegedly slain by government forces. Some of those reports cite a blog posting last week by the Cartoonists Rights Network International, which states: “Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off,  taken out and executed.”

Is Raslan’s execution actually confirmed?

Not actually, clarifies CRNI’s Robert Russell, who alerted Comic Riffs last month that he feared Raslan might be dead.

CRNI’s report of Raslan’s death, Russell tells us Sunday, is based on “a reliable source close to [his] family.” Russell notes, however: “The family is still saying that they don’t know [what happened], and that nobody has told them anything.”

Does Russell think Raslan could be alive?

“There’s a chance of it,” replies Russell, who is executive director of the Fairfax Station, Va.-based Cartoonists Rights Network International, which has long monitored and aided cartoonists worldwide in political hot spots.

Earlier this year, CRNI bestowed upon Raslan its Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning.

Russell notes that some of his contacts in Syria “will not speak with me because they don’t want it on the record” that they’ve communicated with Americans about Raslan’s case.

The CRNI director writes that “about nine months ago young Akram Raslan was abducted from the offices of his newspaper and ‘disappeared’ into the Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad's prisons for the next six months.” He also writes that Raslan was last seen July 26.

Russell tells us he has reached out to at least one Syrian rights organization, which he says won’t respond to him.

I’m at a loss ... ,” Russell says. “This place is just a quagmire.”