Syria: Blogger and poet sentenced

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English PEN condemns the five-year sentence handed down on 14 February 2011 to blogger, poet and high school student Tal Al-Mallouhi on the charge of ‘divulging information to a foreign state’. No evidence has been provided for the charge against her. PEN believes that Al-Mallouhi has been sentenced for her online writings and poems in violation of her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a party. We are therefore calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

According to our information, Al-Mallouhi appeared before Damascus State Security Court in a closed session on 14 February 2011, and was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The court did not disclose any evidence or details of the reason behind the verdict, and it is widely believed that she has targeted for her online poems and writings on political and social issues. The State Security Court’s verdict is final, and there is no possibility of appeal.

Al-Mallouhi was arrested on 27 December 2009 after being summoned for questioning about her blog entries. After her arrest, state security officers raided Tal Al-Mallouhi’s family home and confiscated her computer, notebook and other personal documents. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge or access to her family for the first nine months of her detention. Her family was allowed to visit her once at Doma prison in Damascus on 30 September 2010. Initially, Al-Mallouhi’s family had sought her release through diplomatic negotiations and therefore did not want any publicity on the case. However on 2 September 2010 her mother published an open letter to the Syrian president seeking information about her daughter’s welfare and calling for her release. On 5 October 2010 it was reported that Al-Mallouhi had been charged with spying for a foreign country. Al-Mallouhi has no known political affiliations, and sources close to the family are baffled by the charges. It is feared that she could be targeted for comments and poems published in her blog (http://talmallohi.blogspot.com).

For more information please click here and here.

A sample of her poetry follows:

You will remain an example
To Gandhi

I will walk with all walking people
And no
I will not stand still
Just to watch the passers by

This is my Homeland
In which
I have
A palm tree
A drop in a cloud
And a grave to protect me

This is more beautiful

Than all cities of fog
And cities which
Do not recognise me

My master:
I would like to have power
Even for one day
To build the “republic of feelings”

Translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi.

Please send appeals:

– Condemning the harsh prison sentence handed down to blogger, poet and high school student Tal Al-Mallouhi solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to free expression;
– Calling for her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory;
– Ensuring that she has full access to family visits and any necessary medical care whilst detained.
– Seeking assurances of her well-being in detention.

Appeals to:
President
Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 332 3410

Minister of Interior
Major Sa’id Mohamed Samour
Ministry of Interior
‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 222 3428

Copies to:
Minister of Foreign Affairs
His Excellency Walid al-Mua’llim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Abu Rummaneh
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 332 7620

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

His Excellency Dr Sami Khiyami
Syrian Embassy
8 Belgrave Square
London
SW1X 8PH
Fax: 020 7235 4621

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/syriabloggerandpoetsentenced/

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