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Arrest of fourth online journalist in 16 months makes Syria Middle East's biggest jail for cyber-dissidents

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of online journalist Muhened Abdulrahman, arrested on 7 September 2006 for posting articles on independent news websites, and urged diplomats in posts in Damascus to intervene on behalf of the four cyber-dissidents now in Syrian jails.

"Syria is today the Middle East's biggest prison for cyber-journalists. We know that prisoners of opinion are subjected to torture in prison. We must campaign urgently for these men before they are destroyed," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Abdulrahman, 25, was picked up by security services in Damascus on his return from the village of Qamishly, in Syrian Kurdistan, where he had interviewed a Kurdish political leader. His family has had no news of him since his arrest.

The young graduate from Damascus University of Journalism was working for independent news sites and . His work included numerous interviews and profiles of Syrian political figures.

The three other cyber-dissidents imprisoned since the beginning of May 2005 are: Habib Saleh, writer and contributor to news site , arrested in May 2005 and sentenced 15 months later to three months in prison (see IFEX alerts of 16 August 2006 and 30 May 2005); Mohammed Ghanem, who ran, arrested on 31 March (see alerts of 8 June, 17 May and 7 April 2006); and Ali Sayed al-Shihabi, editorialist on, arrested on 10 August 2006 (see alert of 30 August 2006).

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