Annual Report: Syria 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Syria 2010

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  • Muhannad al-Hassani, a prominent human rights lawyer detained in July, remained in prison awaiting trial at the end of the year accused of weakening nationalist sentiment and disseminating "false news" " the stock charges used to prosecute critics " and other offences. The charges arose from his publication on the internet of reports of trials before the SSSC. Held at 'Adra Prison near Damascus, he could be imprisoned for 15 years if convicted. On 10 November, the Bar Association decided to ban him from practising law for publicly exposing the failure of the SSSC to uphold defendants' rights to defence and to fair trial.
  • Haytham al-Maleh, aged 78, a veteran human rights lawyer and government critic arrested in October, also faced trial for allegedly "weakening nationalist sentiment", spreading "false news" and "slandering a governmental body" because of comments he made in a telephone interview with a Europe-based satellite TV channel in September. He too faced up to 15 years' imprisonment if convicted.
  • Mesh'al al-Tammo, spokesperson of the Kurdish Future Current in Syria, an unauthorized political party, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in May by the Damascus Criminal Court for "weakening nationalist sentiment" and disseminating "false news". In November, the same court sentenced Sa'dun Sheikhu and two other members of the unauthorized Kurdish Azadi Party in Syria to three-year prison terms for "weakening nationalist sentiment" and "inciting sectarian or racial strife or provoking conflict between sects and various members of the nation." The charges apparently arose from articles in their party newspaper criticizing discrimination against Syria's Kurdish minority.
  • Kareem 'Arabji, a blogger, was sentenced to three years in prison by the SSSC in September for disseminating "false news" and "weakening nationalist sentiment". He had moderated the internet youth forum www.akhawia.net prior to his arrest in June 2007. He was reported to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated during his prolonged incommunicado detention.
  • Habib Saleh, a pro-reform activist, was sentenced to three years in prison by the Damascus Criminal Court in March for "weakening nationalist sentiment" and spreading "false news". The charges related to several articles criticizing the government that he had written and published on the internet prior to his arrest on 7 May 2008.
  • Khaled Kenjo, a member of the Kurdish minority, was arrested in September, 12 days after he was forcibly returned to Syria from Germany, where he had unsuccessfully sought asylum. He was charged with "broadcasting abroad false news that could harm the reputation of the state". The charge apparently related to his participation, while in Germany, in activities to promote Kurdish minority rights in Syria. On 30 December, Qamishli Military Court ordered his release without dropping the charge. According to Khaled Kenjo, he was tortured in custody.
  • Aktham Naisse, a human rights lawyer, was one of at least 11 human rights defenders and political activists who were prevented from travelling abroad in 2009.

Counter-terror and security

Suspected Islamists and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which remained outlawed in Syria, faced arrest, prolonged detention and unfair trials, mostly before the SSSC. Defendants convicted of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood are routinely sentenced to death and then have their sentences immediately commuted to 12-year prison terms. Hundreds of suspected Islamists and others accused of security offences were believed to be held at Sednaya Military Prison and other prisons, and to be subject to harsh treatment regimes.