Days after Human Rights Watch revealed that the Syrian government was putting political detainees through 20 torture techniques in 27 locations around the country, EFF learned that open source developer Bassel Khartabil has been detained by Syrian authorities.
According to EFF, Bassel has worked as a technical director on several open source projects, including “efforts to restore the Palmyra Atoll and the publication of Forward Syria Magazine,” but has also “contributed his time and expertise to countless organizations including Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, the Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, Sharism, and the Arabloggers community.”
Bassel was detained in Syria on March 12, 2012, in the Mazzeh district of Damascus, a victim of a wave of arrests in the area. EFF reports that his whereabouts had been unknown for several months, and information only surfaced once other detainees were released and informed his parents.
The arrest symbolizes the extent to which autocratic governments like Syria will go to silence any potentially subversive forces—that is, those individuals who have the power to undue Internet censorship and surveillance.
Over a thousand people across the world have signed a letter of support for Bassel addressed to the Syrian government, in which they request “information about his detention, health, and psychological, and demanding his immediate release.” People are also tweeting their support for Bassel using the #freebassel hashtag, according to EFF.