The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International condemns the five- year sentence handed down on 14 February 2011 to blogger, poet and high school student Tal Al-Mallouhi on the charge of "divulging information to a foreign state". No evidence has been provided for the charge against her, and PEN International believes that Al-Mallouhi is sentenced for her online writings and poems. This violates right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a party. PEN calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
According to information received by PEN International, Al-Mallouhi appeared before Damascus State Security Court in a closed session on 14 February 2011, when she was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The court did not disclose any evidence or details of the reason behind the verdict, and it is widely believed that she is targeted for her online poems and writings on political and social issues. The State Security Court's verdict is final, and there is no possibility of appeal.
Al-Mallouhi was arrested on 27 December 2009 after being summoned for questioning about her blog entries. After her arrest, state security officers raided Tal Al-Mallouhi's family home and confiscated her computer, notebook and other personal documents. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge or access to her family for the first nine months of her detention. Her family was allowed to visit her once at Doma prison in Damascus on 30 September 2010. Initially, Al-Mallouhi's family had sought her release through diplomatic negotiations and therefore did not want any publicity on the case. However on 2 September 2010 her mother published an open letter to the Syrian president seeking information about her daughter's welfare and calling for her release. On 5 October 2010 it was reported that Al-Mallouhi had been charged with spying for a foreign country. Al-Mallouhi has no known political affiliations, and sources close to the family are baffled by the charges. It is feared that she could be targeted for comments and poems published in her blog (http://talmallohi.blogspot.com).
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A sample of her poetry follows:
You will remain an example
I will walk with all walking people
I will not stand still
Just to watch the passers by
This is my Homeland
A palm tree
A drop in a cloud
And a grave to protect me
This is more beautiful
Than all cities of fog
And cities which
Do not recognise me
I would like to have power
Even for one day
To build the "republic of feelings"
Translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi.
PEN Centres are encouraged to consider electing Tal al-Mallouhi as an honorary member. Please contact us for a case pack.