Syrian blogger out of jail but still on trial: NGO

DAMASCUS- Syrian Kurdish blogger Kamal Hussein Sheikho was released Sunday from jail but remains on trial for publishing reports allegedly harmful for the country, a rights group said.
Sheikho, who is also a human rights activist, was released on bail of 500 Syrian pounds ($10) at the request of his lawyer, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

Sheikho, a 33-year-old literature student at the University of Damascus, was arrested June 23 last year on the Syria-Lebanon border. He was being 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 the last hearing had been set for March 7.
On February 20 the Observatory reported Sheikho had started a hunger strike five days earlier to protest his detention.
In Sunday's statement, the group "congratulated" Sheikho and urged the Syrian authorities anew to release all political prisoners and to "stop the arbitrary detention of political dissidents and civil society activists."
Syria in November passed a media law that punishes bloggers convicted of defamation with heavy fines and jail sentences.
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.

Sunday, March 13th 2011

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