Syria military court sentences writer to six months for criticizing government

Syria military court sentences writer to six months for criticizing government

[JURIST] A military court in Syria [JURIST news archive] has sentenced writer Mohammad Ghanem to six months in prison for "insulting the Syrian president, discrediting the Syrian government and fomenting sectarian unrest," a human rights group said Wednesday. The charges stem from Ghanem's articles published on a website he edits, Surion [in Arabic], that call on the Baathist ruling party to end the repression of Syrian Kurds. Under Syrian Legislative Decree No. 6 of 1965, Ghanem faced up to 15 years in prison for his writings, though the court commuted his sentence from one year to six months. The legislative decree [Article 19 report, PDF] prohibits, in part:

3(a) [A]cts which are considered contrary to the implementation of the socialist system in the state, whether they take place by action, speaking or writing or by any other means of expression or publication. …

3(e) [O]pposition to the realisation of unity among Arab countries, or opposition to or obstruction of any of the aims of the revolution by taking part in or inciting demonstrations, assemblies or riots, or by publication of false information with the intention of creating a state of chaos and shaking the confidence of the masses in the aims of the revolution.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Ghanem's arrest [press release] last month as violating freedom of expression and several human rights groups in recent months have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile; Aljazeera profile] to release hundreds of political prisoners [JURIST report], saying the arrests are part of a large-scale effort to silence governmental criticism.

Last month, Syrian officials arrested [JURIST report] leading human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni [AI backgrounder] and several other prominent dissidents in what the US has characterized [JURIST report] as a crackdown on "Syrians who seek to defend their rights and to bring democratic change to their country." AP has more.