Syria: Journalist ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah gets 18 month sentence

English PEN condemns the one- and- a- half year sentence handed down on 13 March 2011 to writer, journalist and activist Ali al-‘Abdullah for ‘harming Syria’s relations with a foreign country’. We consider al-Abdullah to have been sentenced in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a party, and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

According to our information, ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah was sentenced by a military court in Damascus on 13 March 2011. The court initially handed down a three-year sentence, but later reduced the term to eighteen months. Mr ‘al-Abdullah has been kept in prison since the expiry of his two-and-a-half year sentence on 16 June 2010. His continuous detention stems from the publication of an article in late 2009, written in prison, in which he criticised Syrian-Iranian relations. He appeared before a Military Court on 7 February 2011 on charges of ‘disseminating false information’ and ‘harming Syria’s relations with a foreign country’. During the court session, Abdullah told the court that his statements did not ‘constitute a crime for which he should be tried because he has a natural right to his opinion’.

‘Ali al-Abdullah was arrested on 16 December 2007 and first sentenced on 29 October 2008 to two-and-half years in prison for ‘disseminating false information with the aim of harming the state’, ‘membership of a secret organisation designed to destabilise the state’ and ‘inciting ethnic and racial tension’ for his dissident writings and peaceful opposition activities. Abdullah was arrested with his son Muhammad ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah following their participation in a peaceful demonstration outside the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) on 22 March 2007. Another of ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah’s sons, Omar, has been detained since 18 March 2006 for his involvement in a pro-democracy youth movement. Their arrests are part of an ongoing crackdown on government opponents who are being targeted for their peaceful opposition activities.

‘Ali al-‘Abdullah was previously arrested in May 2005 and detained for over five months for his opposition activities.


Please send appeals:
– Condemning the harsh prison sentence handed down to writer and journalist ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression;
– Calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory;
– Seeking assurances of his well-being in detention.

Appeals to:

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street        
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Said Sammour
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 222 3428

Please also send copies of your appeal letters to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

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

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