Mon, Feb 14, 2011 - Page 6 News List

US calls on Syria to free high school girl accused of spying

AFP, WASHINGTON

Washington on Saturday called on Damascus to release Tal Al-Mallouhi, a young female blogger US officials say was prosecuted in a “secret trial” on accusations that she spied for the US.

“The United States strongly condemns Syria’s secret trial of blogger Tal Al-Mallouhi, [and] calls for her immediate release,” US Department of State spokesman Philip Crowley said in a brief statement.

Washington “rejects as baseless allegations of American connections that have resulted in a spurious accusation of espionage,” Crowley said.

“We call on the Syrian government to immediately release all its prisoners of conscience; and allow its citizens freedom to exercise their universal rights of expression and association without fear of retribution from their own government,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Syrian authorities in Damascus. Three Syrian rights groups said in late November that Tal al-Mallohi “was interviewed on Nov. 10 by the High Court for State Security and then returned to her women’s prison in Duma, near Damascus.”

The statement expressing “extreme concern” was signed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian League for the Defense of Human Rights and the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

In October, Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper reported that the authorities accused the 19-year-old blogger of spying for the US embassy in Egypt.

The high school student had been “held incommunicado without charge for nine months,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in September.

She was first detained in late December 2009, the group said.

Her blog, which contains poetry and social commentary, focuses mostly on the plight of the Palestinians and does not address Syrian politics, HRW said.

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