Biyasi's sentence reduced to three years

BAGHDAD — A Syrian IT dealer has been jailed for dissent after being convicted of having accessed websites run by the banned opposition and taken part in Internet forums, a human rights watchdog said.

Tareq Biyasi was sentenced by a state security court to six years in prison, but the sentence was immediately reduced to three years, “for having harmed national morale and weakened national sentiment,” said Ammar Qorabi, chairman of the Natl. Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Biyasi, 24, owns a computer shop. His father, Amr, had already served a jail term after being arrested in his native Tartus province last July, Qorabi said.

The watchdog condemned what it called an “attack on freedoms protected by the Syrian constitution” and called for his immediate release.

Qorabi also said the Syrian authorities had arrested author and opposition figure Habib Saleh for the third time since 2001.

Saleh, who has been under police surveillance since his release from jail in September 2007, was detained in the northwest town of Tartus, Qorabi said.

“The security services … arrested Habib Saleh as he was walking in Tartus market on Wednesday (May 7) and took him to an unidentified location. Since then, we have had no news of him,” Qorabi said.

Saleh was arrested for the first time in 2001 along with nine other opposition figures and released after three years in jail.

He was arrested for a second time in May 2005 on charges of “publishing false information” about the 1967 Arab-Israeli War on the Internet, and freed in September two years later.

Syria has detained more than a dozen dissidents in recent months in a mounting crackdown that has drawn strong criticism from the West.

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