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U.S. Bans UAE Company for Supplying Internet Filter to Syria

The U.S. Commerce Department banned a United Arab Emirates company from receiving items under the jurisdiction of U.S. export controls after it was found to have shipped Internet filtering devices to Syria.

The devices, made by Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, California, can be used to block pro-democracy websites and identify activists as part of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown against dissidents, the department said today in a statement.

Waseem Jawad, using the company names Infotec and Info Tech, ordered multiple Blue Coat devices in December 2010 from an authorized distributor in the UAE. The devices ended up in Syria, according to the Commerce Department.

“It is vital that we keep technology that can be used to further the repression of the Syrian people out of the hands of the Syrian government,” Eric Hirschhorn, the undersecretary for industry and security, said in the statement.

Steve Schick, a Blue Coat spokesman, declined to comment on today’s announcement. Blue Coat has previously said in a company statement that its products were “transferred illegally” into Syria by a distributor. The company said it “does not sell to countries embargoed by the US.”

Blue Coat agreed on Dec. 9 to be bought by an investor group led by Thoma Bravo LLC for about $1.3 billion.

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, has put the death toll in Syria at more than 4,000, while the United Nations estimates the number of civilians and army defectors killed exceeds 5,000. The government says more than 1,100 members of the security forces have been killed.

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