Syrian Kurdish blogger on hunger strike: NGO

AFP , Sunday 20 Feb 2011

Imprisoned Syrian blogger Kamal Sheikho goes on hunger strike

A jailed Syrian Kurdish blogger and rights activist, Kamal Hussein Sheikho, is on a hunger strike, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"He began a hunger strike five days ago in protest of his detention," said the watchdog in reference to the Kurdish blogger.

Sheikho, a 33-year-old literature student at the University of Damascus, was arrested June 23 on the Syria-Lebanon border. He is detained in Adra prison, just outside Damascus.

He is accused of "publishing mendacious reports liable to weaken the nation's spirit" and is being tried at the Damascus criminal court where his next hearing is on March 7, the organisation said in a statement.

The observatory demands the Syrian government "immediately release" Sheikho and all political prisoners while also calling on the authorities to "stop the arbitrary detention of political dissidents and civil society activists."

The organisation also demands a "vote on a modern law governing the work of political parties and civil societies in Syria which would guaranty the integrity and the unity of the country."

Syria's media law, which was approved by the government in November, punishes bloggers with heavy fines and jail sentences if they are convicted of defamation.

Syria is ranked 173rd out 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, falling eight places from its ranking in the 2009 index after it stepped up internet censorship.

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