Tal al-Mallouhi was arrested in Syria in December 2009, and yesterday, at 20 years old, was sentenced to five years in prison for spying, an action condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists. She had written blog articles saying she wished to play a role in shaping the future of Syria, and asking US president Barack Obama to do more to support Palestine. She was charged with “revealing information that should remain hushed to a foreign country”. An official told Al Jazeera she “deserved 15 years in prison but her sentence was commuted considering her age”.
PJ Crowley, of the US state department, “sharply criticized” Syria’s handling of this case. Obama recently interfered in a similar case in Yemen, that time demanding that a Yemeni journalist remain in prison for reporting the truth about a US attack in Yemen that killed 55 civilians.
Syria’s reaction to the threat of protests was covered by WL Central here. It was noted at that time, that despite a well publicized and lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal touting change in his regime, president Bashar al-Assad actions have not yet matched his words on any level. In his interview he advocated “the people participating in the decisions of their country” said “real reform is about how to open up the society, and how to start dialogue,” and of the Syrian people, “They want to criticize you, let them criticize and do not worry. Just be transparent with your people and tell them this is the reality.”
He was very confident that there would be no protests in Syria, (a country with approximately 10,000 political prisoners) and said “I do not think it is about time, it is about the hope, because if I say that in five years time or ten years time may be, if the situation is going to be better, people are patient in our region.” Patient, perhaps. But as WL Central pointed out previously, there is very little to be hopeful for and very little change to be seen, and as Assad also said, “The problem is if you tell them I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.”