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Authorities remain silent about imprisonment of Syrian journalist Ata Farahat

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the "unacceptable silence" of the Israeli authorities about Syrian journalist Ata Farahat, who has been held in custody for more than a year without any explanation.

The Israeli media has been banned by court order from publishing news about the trial of the journalist, a correspondent for the Syrian daily "Al-Watan" and for Syrian public television, who has been held in prison since 30 July 2007.

"The blackout imposed by the Israeli justice system is unacceptable and unworthy of a democracy," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Whatever the case against him, Ata Farahat has the right to a fair and transparent trial."

Farahat's family told the organisation that the journalist was currently being held in al-Jalbou prison in Beit Shean, about 120 kilometres from Jerusalem. Only his immediate family and his lawyer have been allowed to visit him.

Farahat was arrested at his home in Buqata in the north of the Golan Heights on 30 July 2007 by the Yassam Special Forces unit. He appeared before an examining magistrate in Tel Aviv and his trial opened on 2 March 2008 behind closed doors. To date there have already been 17 separate hearings.

Since his arrest, the court has banned defence lawyers and the Israeli media from providing any information about the ongoing trial. No information has been revealed either about the charges against him.

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