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Journalist, sister detained in Syria

By THANAA IMAM

DAMASCUS, Syria, May 21 (UPI) -- A Syrian journalist and her sister were arrested by Syrian security forces weeks ago but their whereabouts and reasons for their arrest were still unknown, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Aktham Naaissi, spokesman for the Committee for Defending Human Rights in Syria, said in a statement that security personnel arrested journalist Aziza Sbayni and her sister Shirine Sbayni in Damascus nearly three weeks ago.

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He said Aziza was a journalist working for Al-Muharrer, a newspaper owned by Syrian Nihad al-Ghadiri. The newspaper is printed in Lebanon and supports Syria's ruling regime.

Naaissi said Sbayni's detention was reminiscent of "numerous arrests that targeted a number of politicians and Kurdish activists" over the last two years. Naaissi appealed to the Interior Minister to intervene "in the cases of arbitrary arrests and investigate in the detention of Sbayni, her sister and the others."

Ten government opponents, including two parliamentarians known for defending human rights, have been rounded up since last August and put on trial on charges of "aggressing the Constitution."

The parliamentarians, Maamoum al-Homsi and Riad Seif, were each sentenced to five years in prison.

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All 10 were considered to have violated the "red lines" for criticizing the control of the Baath ruling party, demanding economic and political reforms and calling for free and democratic elections.

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