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Syria sentences teen blogger to five years

Feb. 15, 2011 at 9:00 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A High State Security court in Damascus sentenced a 19-year-old female blogger to five years in prison for spying on another country, Syrian officials said.

Tal al-Mallohi has been held in prison since she was arrested in Damascus in December 2009. She was found guilty of "revealing information to a foreign country," Syrian officials told RTTNews.

Monday's court session reportedly took place behind closed doors.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights Web site called on the government to respect international obligations concerning the protection and promotion of human rights and release all "prisoners of conscience in Syrian prisons." The site declared the court hearing illegal.

In September, Human Rights Watch protested al-Mallohi's incarceration. "Detaining a high school student for nine months without charge is typical of the cruel, arbitrary behavior of Syria's security services," Sarah Leah Whitson, the organization's Middle East director said. "A government that thinks it can get away with trampling the rights of its citizens has lost all connections to its people," she said.

At the time, al-Mallohi's family told the organization their daughter was in her last year of high school and is not affiliated with any political group. Syrian activists told the organization she may have been detained over a poem she wrote criticizing restrictions on freedom of expression in Syria.

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