Reporters Without Borders has learned that blogger and high-school student Tal Al-Mallouhi has been detained arbitrarily by the Syrian intelligence services ever since she was summoned on 27 December 2009 for questioning about some of her blog entries. No charge has been brought against her and it is not known where she is being held.
Reporters Without Borders calls for an immediate end to this arbitrary detention. Mallouhi must be tried in a transparent manner if she really did commit a crime or else she must be freed at once. Born in 1991, she was 18 at the time of her arrest.
Mallouhi kept three blogs in which she criticised Arab and Syrian international policy and the Union for the Mediterranean, a partnership between the European Union and Mediterranean basin countries.
Her mother insisted that she knew nothing about politics in a letter to President Bashar Al-Assad pleading for release. The family did not publicise her arrest because they were hoping to obtain her release through discreet negotiations with the authorities.
At least five journalists and netizens are currently detained in Syria, which is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet” because of the level of online censorship and the persecution of those who dare to express their views freely online.
Journalist Ali Al-Abdallah, who should have been released on completing a 30-month jail sentence on 16 June, continues to be held because of an article posted online at the end of 2009 in which he criticised the Islamic Republic of Iran’s religious system and Syria’s relations with Iran.
Firas Saad and Habib Saleh, two cyber-dissidents who were arrested in May 2008, and Kamal Sheikhou ben Hussein, a human rights activists and cyberdissident who was arrested on 25 June 2010, are all still being held.
Tareq Byasi was released on 16 August on completing a three-year jail term on charges of “attacking the nation’s soul” and “undermining national sentiment” for allegedly posting an article criticising the Syrian security services on an Internet forum. Arrested in July 2007, he was initially given a six-year sentence in May 2008, but it was quickly commuted to three years.