October 14, 2010

President Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410

Minister of Interior
Major Sa’id Mohamed Samour
Ministry of Interior
‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street
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 incommunicado detention of blogger, poet, and high school student Tal Al-Mallouhi.

According to our information, 19-year-old Al-Mallouhi was initially detained on December 27, 2009, after she was summoned for questioning about her blog entries. For the first nine months of her detention, Al-Mallouhi was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location, without charges or access to her family. Her detention was not publicized until late August 2010. She is now reportedly facing charges of “spying for a foreign country,” although she has no known political affiliations, and sources close to her family are bewildered by the accusations. It is feared that Al-Mallouhi has been targeted for comments and poems published in her bog, which reportedly discuss political and social issues.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that Tal Al-Mallouhi’s detention is part of a widespread crackdown on freedom of expression in Syria, in which a high number of writers, journalists, poets and bloggers have been detained for their writings and non-violent opposition activities. We remain extremely concerned about Al-Mallouhi’s well-being in detention due to the high risk of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in Syria. We believe she is being targeted for her online writings in direct violation of her right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and therefore call for her immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all those held in violation of this treaty. We also call on Syrian authorities to ensure that Al-Mallouhi has full access to her family, a lawyer, and any necessary medical treatment, and to ensure that she is not being ill-treated in detention.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.

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

CC: Minister of Foreign Affairs
His Excellency Walid al-Mua’llim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Abu Rummaneh
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 7620

H.E. Ambassador Imad Moustapha, Ph.D.
Embassy of Syria to the United States
2215 Wyoming Ave. NW                            
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 234-9548

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