Syrian Authorities Target Prominent Dissident and Teenage Son, Says Amnesty International

Press Release
August 19, 2011

Syrian Authorities Target Prominent Dissident and Teenage Son, Says Amnesty International

Contact: AIUSA media relations, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) -- Syrian authorities are feared to be torturing a prominent dissident and his teenage son, his lawyer has told Amnesty International.

Walid al-Bunni has been detained incommunicado since he was arrested from his Damascus hiding place on August 6 along with his 18-year-old son Mu'ayad, who is not believed to have taken part in the demonstrations.

"I'm very worried that they may be keeping Mu'ayad in prison with his dad just to cause Walid pain by watching his son being tortured," Walid's lawyer told Amnesty International.

Walid al-Bunni, aged 46, is one of hundreds of Syrian activists detained amid the government's bloody crackdown on protesters who have been calling for reforms since March.

An outspoken and fearless critic of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Walid al-Bunni has paid a steep price for speaking out for democracy and political reforms.

Having been imprisoned twice before, he and two of his sons went into hiding on May 5, 2011, after security forces broke down the front door of his flat.

"Mu'ayad is the apple of his dad's eye, I don't believe he took part in the protests," said the lawyer.

Walid al-Bunni has been missing since he was arrested by armed men believed to be members of Syria's Political Security forces along with his two sons, Iyad and Mu'ayad.

Iyad, aged 19, was later released. The whereabouts of his brother and father have not been disclosed by the Syrian authorities, while the family is too afraid to ask the authorities for information

Walid al-Bunni has served lengthy prison sentences twice before.  He spent five years in jail from 2001 until 2006 for his activities during the "Damascus Spring," a period following President al-Assad's rise to power.

He was also jailed for two and a half years from December 2007 to June 16, 2010, for his involvement in a coalition of opposition groups calling for peaceful reform and respect for human rights.

Amnesty International spoke to an emotional Walid al-Bunni on June 22, 2010, shortly after his most recent release from detention.

"During my imprisonment I sometimes felt melancholy for not being present for my children when they need me," he said tearfully. "But then I remember that I am man of a cause and that our people should live a dignified and free life."

More than 1,800 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, according to a list of names compiled by Amnesty International. Many of them were reportedly killed by live ammunition used by the Syrian army and security forces during generally peaceful protests.

The Syrian authorities have arrested thousands and held many incommunicado at unknown locations where torture and other ill-treatment are reported to be rife.

Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Walid al-Bunni and Mu'ayad al-Bunni as they are prisoners of conscience,.

Walid al-Bunni is detained solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, while Mu'ayad al-Bunni appears to be detained solely to put pressure on his father.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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