For all of the news that the rest of the world gets about Syria, one couldn't be blamed for believing that the country has all of the activity of an abandoned amusement park; it's a near-blackout. But then news like this emerges from a neighboring country via Amnesty International and you realize, no, that quiet impression is about as far from the truth as you can get:
Razan Ghazzawi, the Syrian blogger who was detained earlier this month, has been tried in front of the magistrate and charged with three crimes, Amnesty International told The Daily Star.
According to her lawyer, her charges include “establishing an organization that aims to change the social and economical entity of the state” and “weakening the national sentiment, and trying to ignite sectarian strife" and "weakening national sentiment" -- all of which can lead to a penalty of three to 15 years in prison.
"Weakening national sentiment." A more obscure trespass couldn't be offered. Everything from molotov cocktailing vehicles to demanding more foam on a latte in a Starbucks could be manipulated to fall under the crime of "weakening national sentiment." What a farce. Worse, Syrian officials appear undeterred to continue with their kangaroo court convictions of Ghazzawi.
After no updates on her condition or legal status for days since she was arrested, Ghazzawi's trial appears to have already occurred and was in no doubt intended to deliver a message to the rest of the media who have strived to keep the world abreast of what is happening in Syria. The Syrian government has kept a virtually complete ban on all international news media from the country which has elevated the importance of bloggers like Ghazzawi and Anas Maarawi and Hussein Ghrer, two other bloggers who have been targeted by the government. Ghrer was eventually released after posting a $1,000 bail but never formally charged with anything. Maarawi was arrested but eventually released and is still facing charges.
The blog that Ghazzawi kept, Razaniyyat, was closed down after her arrest although past posts are still available to be read.
Ghazzawi, an activist and blogger who has maintained a public profile in spite of the government's hostile assault against anyone identified as part of the media, was arrested by government authorities on December 4th while attempting to cross Syria's border with Jordan. Word quickly spread on Twitter and Facebook of her disappearance and demands for her release reverberated across the Internet. Supporters on Twitter contributed to the "Free Razan" cause via the hashtag #FreeRazan, in addition to a Facebook page that, as of today, claims over 4,600 followers. Al Jazeera English has covered the online support of Ghazzawi in the video below:
The most recent activity on Twitter still shows a growing concern for Ghazzawi's fate:
#FreeRazan sis has been charged from 3 to 15 years in Jail, hopefully just a routine. pls stop asking it's hard 2 say when it's my sister 🙁
Yes, you read that last tweet correctly: that was from Ghazzawi's sister, Nadine Ghazzawi.
Stay updated on Ghazzawi's situation on Twitter using the above hashtag or on the Free Razan Facebook page.