Rumors are circulating that imprisoned Syrian-Palestinian software engineer Bassel Khartabil, also known as Bassel Safadi, has been secretly sentenced to death by the Syrian government.
The open-source software developer and blogger has been in prison in Syria since March 2012. In October 2015, Bassel was transferred from Adra prison to an undisclosed location. At that time, his wife, Noura Ghazi, reported that “military police took Bassel from his cell in Adra with a ‘top secret’ sealed order from the Military Field Court.”
On November 12, 2015, Ghazi reported that she was contacted by people who identified themselves as insiders in the Assad government who informed her of the alleged sentencing. Ghazi wrote on Facebook:
إجاني خبر صاعق انو باسل محكوم اعدام وهاد بيعني انو نقلو عالشرطة العسكرية كتير خطير … ما بعرف شي غير هيك وما بعرف اذا تنفذ شي بحقو … يارب نقدر نساعد باسل … يا رب ما يكون فات الاوان عالمحاولات …. كتير خايفين على حياة باسل
I've just gotten disturbing and shocking news that Bassel has been sentenced to death. I think this means that the transfer to military prison was very dangerous. I really don't know other news. May God help him, we hope it's not too late. We are worried sick about his life.
While these rumors are difficult to confirm, Bassel's whereabouts still remain unknown. Supporters are urging foreign governments and the UN to take action and demand that Syrian authorities inform Bassel's family of his whereabouts and give him clemency.
At the UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum in João Pessoa this week, supporters circulated a statement that read:
Bassel's detention is arbitrary and in violation of international human rights law. The refusal of the authorities to reveal his whereabouts is an enforced disappearance. His prosecution do not meet the standards of a fair trial. Bassel can and should be unconditionally released to the care of his family.
Bassel was arrested on March 15, 2012, on the first anniversary of the start of the Syrian revolution. He was interrogated and tortured for five days by Military Branch 215. He was then transferred to the Interrogation Division Branch 248 and detained incommunicado for nine months. On December 9, 2012, Khartabil was brought before a military prosecutor without an attorney present, and charged with “spying for an enemy State”. He was then sent to the Adra Prison in Damascus, where he was held until recently.