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Syria: Imprisonment of internet users a violation

Syria: Imprisonment of internet users is a gross violation of human rights

Amnesty International today called for the immediate and unconditional release of three Syrians sentenced to prison terms of up to four years for their legitimate use of the internet.

On Sunday, Syria's State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced Haytham Qutaysh to four years, his brother Muhannad to three years and Yahya al-Aws to two years imprisonment on charges of spreading false information obtained from websites banned in Syria.

All three have already been in detention for more than 19 months, during which time Amnesty International has continued to campaign for their release as prisoners of conscience.

"The court's ruling represents a gross violation of the men's right to freedom of expression and of their right to a fair trial, " Amnesty International said.

Over the years, the organization has documented evidence showing how trials held before the SSSC are grossly unfair. Its verdicts are not subject to appeal, defendants have restricted access to lawyers, judges are granted wide discretionary powers and confessions allegedly extracted under torture are accepted as evidence.

The SSSC, which was created in 1968 under Syria's emergency laws, is not bound by the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedures. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Committee has stated that its procedures are incompatible with the provisions of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a state party.

For Amnesty International's most recent public statement on prisoners of conscience in Syria please go to:

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