Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
Syrian Youth for Justice
The first trial for the eight youths who were arrested for founding a public discussion group on cultural issues
On Novermber 28th, 2006 the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) of Syria held the first trial for eight youth arrested for founding a public discussion group on cultural issues, including current cultural and political issues in Syria. These students came together based on common principles of secular and democratic principles. They have been held incommunicado and without access to legal consel since their arrest over nine months ago.
The SSSC has accused seven of the eight students of violating Article 278 of the Syrian Criminal Code for "subjecting the State to the risk of hostile acts," and Article 287 for "publishing false news that may offend the dignity of the State." The eighth student, Ali Nazir Ali, was accused of violating only Article 287. The student's lawyers were able to attend the court procedure, but parents and journalists were prohibited from entering the courtroom. The eight youth have denied belonging to any party or organization and their lawyers insist that all charges are without merit.
We, as the Syrian Youth for Justice, demand the immediate release of these eight students or the transfer of their cases to a standard court to include a public procedure so that they may receive a fair trial under according to due process of law.
Finally, we ask all local and international organizations to place pressure on the Syrian authorities to release these youths. They are part of a precious group of Syrian youth dedicated to secular and democratic principles.
Syrian Youth for Justice.
The next report from Syrian Youth for Justice will provide detailed information on the exact activities of the eight arrested youth.
More information about the eight youth:
1. Husam Mulhim: 22 years old, second year student at the Faculty of Law at the University of Damascus. He is also a poet and organized poetry readings and lectures at the university.
2. Omar Al Abdullah: 21 years old, young writer and second year student of philosophy at the University of Damascus. He was first arrested for discussion youth issues in 2004 with a group of young students and held for 11 days. He is the son of activist and writer Ali Al Abdullah, a former prisoner of conscience in Syria.
3. Ali Nazir Ali: 22 years old, young writer and second year business student at the University of Damascus.
4. Allam Atieh Fakhour: 27 years old, graduate of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Damascus. Current graduate student of art and sculpture.
5. Aiham Muhhamad Sakr: 30 years old, writer.
6. Tarek Ghorani: 21 years old, associate engineer and writer.
7. Maher Esper: 26 years old, writer.
8. Diab Surrieh: 21 years old, student and writer.
Here is a note from a supporter of the Students who watched the trial.
Today, November 28, 2006, human rights activists, lawyers and families gathered in front of the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) to catch a glimpse of eight arrested youth. No one has heard any news from them for over nine months as they have been held incommunicado and without access to a lawyer since their arrests in the early part of this year. After a long wait for the eight youth, a carload of soldiers and the prison transport arrived and escorted the students from the car to the courthouse as their crying mothers and fathers looked on. Family members and others called to the youth as they were paraded in front of courthouse, shouting their names as they marched by. No one has seen or heard from these young men since they left their homes as students nine months. Their hands were bound and they were escorted by armed guards.
These young men were brought together by friendship and their desire to create dialogue and discuss cultural issues in Syria. The eight youth belong to most of Syria's various ethnic and religious groups (including Sunni, Catholic, Allawi, etc) and share a commitment to secularism and democratic values.
Leaving the courtroom after today's trial the students raised their arms, making a "V" sign for victory to the supporters looking on. As the prison transport carried the young men away from the courthouse, supporters clapped their hands in solidarity and waved goodbye to these prisoners of conscience. From the street the youth could be heard from within the metal doors of the paddy wagon, shouting in unison, not afraid of the consequences of speaking out and proud of the dignity and humanity of their work.
When Syrian authorities continue to arrest youth committed to secular and democratic ideals, pushing them away from public life and the institutions of civil society, this can only increase radical thinking and extremism in the country. Instead of placing youth under arrest, the Syrian government should be encouraging these brave acts of expression from young, educated Syrians.