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Journalist Ali al-Abdullah gets 18-month sentence

(WiPC/IFEX) - 14 March 2011 - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International 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". The sentence stemmed from an article published by Abdullah while in prison in 2009 in which he criticised Syrian-Iranian relations. PEN International considers Abdullah to be sentenced in violation of 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 was sentenced by a military court in Damascus on 13 March 2011. The court initially handed down a three-year sentence, but reduced the term to eighteen months. Mr 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. 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".

Abdullah was arrested on 16 December 2007 and first sentenced on 29 October 2008 to two-and-a- 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 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.

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


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

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
Email: [email protected]

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