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Teenage woman blogger sentenced to five years

Female blogger Taj al-Mallohi
Female blogger Taj al-Mallohi

A 20-year-old woman blogger has been sentenced to five years in jail on state security charges, report the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On 14 February, the High State Security Court in Damascus, a special court established to prosecute those considered a threat to the state, sentenced Tal al-Mallohi in a closed-door trial to five years in prison for "divulging information to a foreign state," say the members.

The court did not disclose any evidence or details of the reason behind the verdict. It is widely believed that she is targeted for her online poems and writings on political and social issues, such as on the fate of Palestinians after the 2008 military operations in Gaza.

The State Security Court's verdict is final, and there is no possibility of appeal.

Al-Mallohi was detained in December 2009, after state security forces summoned her for questioning about her blog entries. After her arrest, security forces searched her home and confiscated her computer. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge or access to her family for the first nine months of her detention.

Her arrest prompted campaigns for her release all over the world (FreeTal.com).

Al-Mallohi's case is just one in a wide pattern of using security forces to quell dissidents. According to CPJ, the Emergency Law has been in place since 1963 and suspends many political and civil rights, and grants the government sweeping powers that allow it to detain individuals for extended periods and to try them in military courts.

Human Rights Watch says Syria uses the state security court to try dissidents, including Kurdish activists, Syria's largest non-Arab ethnic minority, to long prison terms, often on broadly worded "security" provisions in Syria's penal code. Many of them are held incommunicado for lengthy periods of time, and subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

WiPC reports that jailed journalist Ali al-Abdullah, whose two-and-a-half year sentence for his dissident writings and peaceful opposition activities expired in June 2010, 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.

Freemuse and Amnesty International report that Kurdish singer Bave Salah was arrested in Aleppo on 24 January, despite having no political affiliations.

"There can be no rule of law in Syria as long as its feared security services remain above the law," said Human Rights Watch. "If President Bashar al-Asad is serious about reform, he should start with the security services and shut down the state security court."

WiPC translated a sample of al-Mallohi's poetry:

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"

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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