HRW criticizes Syrian gov't for stifling freedom of expression

October 8, 2007 16:31

Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government Monday to release writers and activists it has detained for expressing their opinions or reporting information online. The rights group said Syrian authorities have held two men, Karim Arbaji and Tarek Biasi, since June for criticizing the government online and the country's judiciary sentenced a third man, Ali Zein al-Abideen Mej, to two years in prison in September for posting comments deemed harmful to the nation. "The fact that Syria arrests people solely because they criticize the state speaks volumes about the government's utter disregard for the most basic human rights," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Even worse, Syrian intelligence has the nasty habit of not telling families where their loved ones are being detained in effect, disappearing them for periods of time." Authorities have refused to disclose the whereabouts of Arbaji or Biasi to their families, the organization said in a written statement.

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