Syrian blogger Tal al-Mallohi was detained in Syria in 2009 and, after serving five years for disclosing state secrets and a further three years on trumped-up drug charges, in late 2020 she was being held without charge. She is detained on the orders of a security adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, according to Syrian lawyer and human rights defender Michal Shammas, who is in touch with al-Mallohi’s lawyer.
Al-Mallohi’s blog was devoted to Palestinian rights and was critical of Israeli policies. It also discussed the frustrations of Arab citizens 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 newspaper Al-Watan said in October 2010 that al-Mallohi was suspected of spying for the United States. But 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, 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 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, the reports said.
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 didn’t know the date that al-Mallohi was sentenced.
In September 2020, Shammas told CPJ that al-Mallohi is being held in jail on personal orders of Major General Ali Mamlouk, special security adviser to al-Asad, in spite of the fact that she has already served her sentence. As of late 2020, al-Mallohi is still in Adra prison, Shammas said, adding that she is suffering psychologically.
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 has to 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.
The Syrian mission to the United Nations did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for information on al-Mallohi’s legal status, reasons for her prolonged detention, and health sent in September 2020. In November, CPJ also emailed the Syrian Defense Ministry for comment on Mamlouk’s alleged order to continue detaining al-Mallohi but did not receive a reply.