Syria has accused a 19-year-old blogger who is in prison of being a spy, an official said Monday in the first comment from authorities on a case that sparked calls by a leading rights group for the young woman's release.
Tal al-Mallohi was taken into custody in December. Her blog, known for poetry and social commentary, focuses mostly on the suffering of Palestinians. It was not clear whether al-Mallohi's arrest was connected to the blog.
"She was detained on the accusation of spying for a foreign country," the Syrian official said. "Her spying led to an attack against a Syrian army officer by the agents of this foreign country."
The official did not specify which country al-Mallohi allegedly spied for or elaborate on the attack on the Syrian officer. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.
CBS News' George Baghdadi reports, however, that according to two Syrian news websites, al-Mallohi stands accused of, "espionage and sending information to the American Embassy in Egypt which was destructively offensive for the Syrian National Security."
The two websites, DP-News and Syria-News, have close connection with the Syrian authorities, says Baghdadi.
Syrian human rights activists in Syria have expressed concern that al-Mallohi may have been detained over a poem she wrote in her blog criticizing certain restrictions on freedom of expression in Syria, reports Baghdadi.
The Syrian government bans Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but Syrian youths have found ways to evade the censors, and frequent such sites.
Her father, Dosar al-Mallohi, told The Associated Press that he and his wife visited their daughter at Doma prison in a Damascus suburb last Thursday and that she was in good health.
It was the first time they had seen their daughter or told of her whereabouts in nine months, he said, but declined to elaborate.
He added that she has not been formally charged but that he'll hire a lawyer to defend her.
Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch called for al-Mallohi's release.
"Detaining a high school student for nine months without charge is typical of the cruel, arbitrary behavior of Syria's security services," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said at the time.
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