February 16, 2009 

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street       
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax:  + 963 11 332 3410
His Excellency General Saed Samour
Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: + 963 11 222 3428

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the continued detention of journalist ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah.

According to our information, ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah remains in prison after the two-and-a-half-year sentence he received on October 29, 2008, expired in June 2010. Abdullah now faces new charges of “disseminating false information” for statements that he made while imprisoned in late 2009 that criticized Syrian-Iranian relations. He appeared before a military court in Damascus on February 7, 2011, and pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him, claiming that his statements did not “constitute a crime for which he should be tried because he has a natural right to his opinion.”

‘Ali al-‘Abdullah was originally arrested on December 16, 2007, and sentenced on October 29, 2008, to two and a half years in prison on charges of “disseminating false information with the aim of harming the state,” “membership of a secret organization designed to destabilize the state,” and “inciting ethnic and racial tension” for his dissident writings and peaceful opposition activities. He had previously been detained in May 2005 for over five months for his opposition activities.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah is being targeted solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release and urge authorities to grant him full access to his family and lawyer.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee     
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Imad Moustapha
Embassy of Syria
2215 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 265-4585

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