Syrian blogger Tal al-Mallohi was detained in 2009, and in 2011 was sentenced to five years imprisonment for disclosing state secrets. A court ordered the journalist to be released at the end of 2014, but she was not freed. Authorities instead convicted her on a new charge of drug possession and sentenced her to a further three years in jail. She remained in detention as of late 2022.
Al-Mallohi’s blog was devoted to Palestinian rights and was critical of Israeli policies. It also discussed Arab citizens’ frustrations with their governments and what she perceived to be the stagnation of the Arab world. Al-Mallohi’s case gained widespread attention in the Arab blogosphere, on social media websites, and with human rights activists worldwide.
The blogger was initially detained in December 2009 after she was summoned for questioning by security officials, according to local rights groups. In February 2011, she was sentenced by a state security court to five years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets.
The privately owned Syrian newspaper Al-Watan said in October 2010 that al-Mallohi was suspected of spying for the United States; the Al-Watan article is no longer accessible but is quoted extensively by French broadcaster France 24. However, lawyers allowed into the closed court session said the judge "did not give evidence or details as to why she was convicted," the BBC reported. The U.S. State Department condemned the trial at the time, saying in a statement that the allegations of espionage were baseless.
In October 2013, a Syrian court ordered al-Mallohi to be released at the end of 2014, news reports said. But the order was never carried out and she was instead transferred to the General Security Directorate in Damascus, according to Amnesty International and news reports. After several months, she was returned to Adra Prison on the outskirts of Damascus, reports said.
Syrian lawyer and human rights defender Michal Shammas, who is following al-Mallohi’s case closely, told CPJ in September 2019 that to justify al-Mallohi’s prolonged detention, authorities convicted her of drug possession and use while in prison, and sentenced her to another three years in jail on the trumped-up charges, citing information from the blogger’s lawyer. He did not know the date that al-Mallohi was sentenced.
In August 2021, Shammas told CPJ via messaging app that al-Mallohi is being held in Adra Prison on the personal orders of Major General Ali Mamlouk, special security adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, although she has already served her sentence. CPJ wrote to Shammas in late 2022 via messaging app but received no reply.
Although he did not specify the nature of her problems, al-Mallohi is suffering psychologically and physically, according to Shammas.
In a feature story published by The New York Times on August 7, 2018, Syrian artist Azza Abo Rebieh said that she met al-Mallohi while in detention in Adra Prison between September 2015 and January 2016. “Inside, she must have lost her mind. When the guards come and count us, she must be in very good form and put on a perfume so when the counting starts, she appears in perfect form. You look at her and you pity her,” the Times quoted Abo Rebieh, describing al-Mallohi.
Neither the Syrian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, nor the Syrian defense and interior ministries responded to CPJ’s emailed requests sent in September 2022 for information on al-Mallohi’s legal status, whereabouts, reasons for her prolonged detention, and inquiries about her health.