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Syrian Blogger Sentenced to Three Years in Jail

Syrian blogger Kareem Arbaji, 31, was sentenced to three years in prison by the state security court on charges of “spreading false news or exaggerated news that could harm the morale of the country” on September 13, said a statement published the same day on the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Arbaji was arrested by the military security service in June 2007 for posting comments on Al-Akhawia forums, a website where Syrian youth discuss political, social and cultural issues affecting Syria, the statement said.

The organisation called for the unconditional release of Arbaji and all other prisoners of conscience in Syria.

It also reiterated its calls for the closure of the notorious state security court, which it said brought shame on the Syrian judicial system.

This court, established under the emergency laws in effect since 1963, is used to try opponents of the regime. Its existence was harshly criticised by the international watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch in a recent report.

Meanwhile, Annidaa, the opposition website of the Damascus Declaration for National Democratic Change, DDNDC, reported on the same day that the prisoners of conscience in the Adra prison in Damascus continued to be subjected to harassment of all sorts.

The website said that Muhannad al-Hassani, the head of the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights, who has been in prison since July, was prevented from using the phone or practicing sports while prisoners detained on criminal charges were allowed these privileges.

Hassani was also not given a bed to sleep on, it added.

Another prisoner, Marwan al-Esh, member of the Damascus Declaration group, was severely beaten and suffered bruising at the hands of other inmates, the website said.

Muhammad Haji Darwish, another member of the same umbrella group for the Syrian opposition, and writer Habib Saleh were threatened and harassed recently by other criminal detainees, it added.

In all these cases, the prison administration failed to take any measures against the offenders.

Other political prisoners suffer from being held in custody in Damascus while their families live in other cities, which makes it very difficult for them to receive weekly visits and goods from their relatives.

The website said political prisoners wanted to be held separately from those held on criminal charges.

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