Syria - Youth held for past year because of comments posted online



    MONTREAL, June 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns
the detention of Kareem Arbaji, a young business consultant, for the past
12 months because of comments he posted on the online discussion forum Akhawia
(http://www.akhawia.net/). The arrest of Arabji, who is due to appear in court
on 8 June, has only now been drawn to the organisation's attention.
    "Arbaji's arrest means that a total of three cyber-dissidents are being
held in Syria," Reporters Without Borders said. "His detention for the past
year is further evidence of the government's systematic repression of online
freedom. He was arrested on 7 June 2007, but that was not the first time he
was summoned for questioning about his online activities. We call on the
authorities to stop hounding Internet users."
    Aged 31 and a graduate in accountancy from Damascus University, he was
managing a business consultancy when he was arrested in the utmost secrecy on
7 June 2007. He is currently being held in a military prison in Saydnaya,
north of the capital.
    During a hearing on 20 March, he was charged with spreading false
information under article 286 of the criminal code, which punishes "any person
who disseminates information considered false or exaggerated and which is
liable to undermine national morale."
    Two other cyber-dissidents are currently being held in Syria on the same
charge. They are writer and poet Firas Saad, who was arrested in November 2006
for criticising the government on the website Al Hiwar Al Moutamaden, which
means "Modern Discussion," and blogger Tariq Biassi, 22, who was arrested in
July 2007 because of an online comment very critical of the government.
    Participants in the Akhawia (http://www.akhawia.net/) discussion forum
often criticise the authorities. The government systematically filters
opposition websites and Akhawia is on its blacklist. Another 100 websites were
blocked in December 2007. Under regulations that took effect in July 2007,
website owners are required to keep the personal data of everyone who posts
articles and comments on their sites.

    More information : http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27285




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters sans frontières Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org;
www.rsfcanada.org

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