Reporters Without Borders condemns the three-year jail sentence that a Damascus military court imposed on writer and journalist Ali Al-Abdallah on 13 March on a charge of “intending to harm Syria’s relations with another state” under article 278 of the criminal code. The court ruled that he would have to serve 18 months of the sentence.
The charge was based on an article by Abdallah about Iran that was posted online on 23 August 2009, while he was in prison. It criticized the Wilayat al-Faqih doctrine, which gives Iran’s clerics absolute power over political affairs.
Abdallah has been held since 17 December 2007, when he was arrested for signing the Damascus Declaration. He should have been released on 16 June 2010 on completing a 30-month jail sentence but the authorities used the article as grounds for keeping him in prison. He was initially also charged with “publishing false information with the aim of harming the state.”
Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that the lawyer Mohammed Ibrahim Issa was arrested on 5 March after the security services searched his home in the Damascus suburb of Duma, confiscating his computer and other personal items. The reason for his arrest is not known.
The organization welcomes Kurdish blogger Kamal Hussein Sheikhou’s release on 13 March on bail. He had been arrested on 23 June 2010 while trying to enter Lebanon using his brother’s passport. His trial opened on 7 March.
The author of many articles on the All4syria website, Sheikhou is charged with “publishing information defaming the nation.” Reporters Without Borders calls for the withdrawal of the charges. He began a hunger strike on 16 February in protest against conditions in Adra prison, near Damascus.