EXPRESS CHECKOUT

Syrian blogger missing

Posted in Mass Communication, Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 28 August, 2006

People in internet cafe in Damascus Oct 7 2005

Torture fear for blogger
David Smith
Sunday August 27, 2006
The Observer

A Syrian blogger has been arrested by the country’s security forces without explanation, raising fears that President Assad’s government is seeking to curb freedom of speech on the internet.

Ali Sayed al-Shihabi, an English language teacher, has not been seen since he was summoned to a meeting with security agents in Damascus on 10 August. It is believed his detainment may be linked to articles he has written on a political website.

Amnesty International warned that Shihabi, who is 50, is at risk of torture, and urged its members to write to the Syrian authorities.

Amnesty’s joint campaign with The Observer, at Irrepressible.info, calls for an end to governments’ censorship of the web and has attracted more than 36,000 signatures.

Two days after Shihabi was taken, his wife was told that he was being held at the state security centre at Kafr Soussa, Damascus, but that she could not see him. Shihabi has written political articles on the website Hiwar al-Mutamedn (‘Civilised Dialogue’). He also has had two books about social affairs published in Syria and was detained between 1982 and 1991 for his membership of the outlawed Party for Communist Action.

Amnesty said Syria has a history of persecuting bloggers. Tim Hancock, its UK campaigns director, said: ‘We know Syrian military intelligence has held internet dissidents in secret locations in the past and we know they are then at risk of torture.’

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