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Journalist remains detained on new charges despite expiry of sentence

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is seriously concerned about the continuous detention of journalist Ali al-Abdullah, whose two-and-a-half year sentence for his dissident writings and peaceful opposition activities expired in June 2010. Abdullah now faces new charges of "disseminating false information" for an article he wrote in prison.

He appeared before a Military Court in Damascus on 7 February 2011 and pleaded not guilty to the charges. 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." PEN International considers that journalist Ali al-Abdullah is targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his 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, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

According to PEN's information, 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 in which he criticised Syrian-Iranian relations.

Ali al-Abdullah was arrested on 16 December 2007 and 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:
- protesting the new charges against writer and journalist Ali al-Abdullah;
- 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;
- urging that he is allowed full access to his family and lawyer;
- seeking assurances of his well-being in detention.


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 General Ghazi Kan'an
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: + 963 11 222 3428
Email: [email protected]

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

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