Anwar al-Bunni Sentenced to 5 years in Prison

Anwar al-Bunni, Syria's leading human rights activist and lawyer, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Tuesday.
SENTENCED: Syrian human rights activist Anwar Bunni (pictured) was sentenced April 24, 2007 to five years in prison by a Damascus criminal court for 'spreading false information.'
(REUTERS)
DAMASCUS –  Syrian human rights activist Anwar Bunni was Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison on charges of "spreading false information," his lawyer said.

Khalil Maatuk said his client was sentenced in a Damascus criminal court.

Bunni, himself a lawyer, was arrested in the Syrian capital in May 2006 after signing an appeal for radical reform in relations between Syria and neighboring Lebanon.

Syria's state prosecutor said in February that Bunni would be prosecuted for spreading false information.

Bunni was the director of a legal rights center in Syria, financed partly by the European Union and established by a Belgian non-governmental organization. The center was closed down after his arrest.

In a statement to the court in January, Bunni said he was being judged for his opinions and had in no way violated the Syrian constitution or the law.

The "Beirut-Damascus Declaration" published in the Lebanese capital in May 2006 was signed by nearly 300 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals.

In a crackdown that followed in Syria, Bunni was arrested along with nine others, including journalist and writer Michel Kilo and communist activist Mahmoud Issa.

The best interview with Bunni remains Joe Pace's, published on Syria Comment in Aug 2005. Bunni lays out in detail his views on the Syrian opposition, the Kurdish issue, US foreign policy and how Syrians should work to change the situation in their country.

Anwar al-Bunni: Interview with Syria's leading  Here is a small quote from the long interview:

Pace: But there are people who are unwilling as a matter of principle to accept an American victory. How do you convince them that American pressure is in their interest?

Bunni: Those people are one element of many. There is no entity that wants to see an end to American interference more than the Syrian regime itself. But like I said, we need to exploit American pressure, not for the sake of American interests, but for the sake of achieving our own goals. And this is what the current opposition doesn’t understand. It doesn’t understand how to play the game. Even regards to people like Farid Ghadry—we have an expression in Syria: “better the dog bark with you than at you.” Let Farid bark with you. Don’t degrade him.

The opposition has no conception of how it is going to bring about these grand political changes. This is why I say they will collapse with the regime. They have no program; they have no role outside of opposing the regime’s existence. Who are they going to oppose after the regime’s collapse?

The regime’s political strategy depends on planting landmines throughout society. But the mine doesn’t explode if you place your leg on it—it explodes when you remove your leg from it. The regime planted the land mines then placed their legs on them so that if the regime goes, the society will explode. We can expect the same thing that happened in Lebanon to happen here. We suffer from the same problems of competing nationalisms, sectarianism, and extremism. So we are held hostage by a regime that says to us “if I leave, the world will end. You’ll suffer through civil war. Best leave me in place.”

We need to mobilize the people to build a new society and minimize the potential for this explosion. But nothing is free. No country can progress without paying a price, be it blood or civil war. Even America had to undergo civil war before it could become a great power—hundreds of people had to die. Europe had to suffer through the Second World War to become what it is today. Big changes require big prices. But we need to work to minimize the price we will have to pay for progress.

This is the role for foreign pressures—to enable people to mobilize and build a new society that will not explode as soon as the totalitarian boot is lifted. To allow people to build a society that will neutralize that landmine.

Addendum: Hassan Fatah and Hugh Naylor of the NYTimes write:

Bunni's attorneys and many analysts said, the verdict appeared to be a stark warning to the Syrian opposition.

"It was a message to the entire opposition movement: Pursue democracy, get punished," said Razan Zaitounah, an attorney on Bunni's defense team.

Witnesses said the courtroom was hushed as the judge read the verdict Tuesday morning, then erupted in shock at the harshness of the sentence.

"It's not a matter of what Anwar did; the regime is trying to send a message to the opposition movement, and that is: 'Shut up!,' " said Yassin Hajj Salih, a columnist and analyst linked to the opposition who attended the court session Tuesday. "The regime wants activists to be afraid, to be careful of what they do."

Comments (109)


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101. DJ said:

Josh,
I didn’t get your remark clearly, are you suggesting that the Syrian dissent has been naive in not relying fully on the US?

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April 26th, 2007, 6:24 am

 

102. Ford Prefect said:

Enlightened,
I am like you; I have no affinity to the actions of the 4 generals, their disposition, or their demented minds. That is my opinion – which is of course irrelevant regarding their incarceration. Fair is fair and it is applicable to everyone – including criminals. If they committed a crime, they should have a fair trial by an independent judiciary, a legal defense, and a sentence. Throwing them in jail indefinitely, no matter how we perceive their guilt is a travesty to justice and the freedom that we are calling for in Syria. It is the typical hypocrisy that is at issue here. The whole Middle East should be illuminated holistically, shouldn’t it?

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April 26th, 2007, 7:58 am

 

103. Alex said:

It should!

And Good morning to you.

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April 26th, 2007, 8:02 am

 

104. Ford Prefect said:

Go to bed, Alex, sweet dreams ;-)

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April 26th, 2007, 8:56 am

 

105. Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened said:

Akbar an equally dim statement; they are more worth than your glib statement. Question for you Akbar what is your view on the incarceration of Mordechai Vannunu?

Quite simple: I hope he has a good long book to read.

I find it interesting how some here like to compare apples to oranges. Mordechai Vannunu had an obligation to protect state secrets. So did Robert Hanssen (if we we’re talking about the US).

Democracies allow for free speech, not the disclosure of state secrets.

What Syrian state secret did Anwar al-Bunni expose?

I tried to explain the same phenomenon regarding “political prisoners”, Israel has no political prisoners in jail for speaking their mind.

SimoHurtta seems to think that a “political prisoner” is a non-Israeli foreigner who has been caught participating in violence acts against the Israel.

Again, no one here has told me what violent acts Anwar al-Bunni has been involved with against Syria.

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April 26th, 2007, 10:49 am

 

106. SimoHurtta said:

SimoHurtta seems to think that a “political prisoner” is a non-Israeli foreigner who has been caught participating in violence acts against the Israel.

Akbar your ramblings would make sense if the non-Israeli “foreigners” would have been arrested in Israel. But the truth is that the Palestinians have been arrested in an area which is not Israel, it is under Israeli occupation. 99 percent of Palestinians have been born in Palestine. The percent of Israeli Jews born in Israel or its occupied colonies is much, much lower. Actually most of Israelis are foreigners (who for some astonishing reason keep their other passport – for an insurance I assume). :)

If an Israeli comes to a yard where the “foreigner” has been born and has lived all his life and begins to cut his olive trees and the “foreigner” throws stones at the Israeli, is it a violent act against Israel? I do not think it is.

What have you Akbar to say about imprisonment of wifes and children to press the men? I understand that there is nothing you can say in defence for your “Nazi country”.

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April 26th, 2007, 12:15 pm

 

107. Ford Prefect said:

Here is a smart and corageous statement from a true American and un-hijacked Republican, Sentor Chuck Hagel:

“I am a supporter of Israel, but first I am an American senator,”
Hagel said. “No relationship should ever be founded on holding hostage other relationships.”

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxMjI5OTgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

P.S. GO GEORGE AJJAN!!

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April 26th, 2007, 3:52 pm

 

108. Akbar Palace said:

SimoHurtta continues his argument concerning “political prisoners”:

Akbar your ramblings would make sense if the non-Israeli “foreigners” would have been arrested in Israel.

SimoHurtta,

No, my ramblings would never make sense to you because you (and your Pali information sources) will continue to redefine what the term “politcal prisoner” is.

But the truth is that the Palestinians have been arrested in an area which is not Israel, it is under Israeli occupation.

So? Arresting someone in Israel, Ramallah (which is not occupied), Lebanon, or China simply does not make this person a “political prisoner” if they were caught engaging or supporting acts of violence.

99 percent of Palestinians have been born in Palestine.

That statistic is plainly false. Most Palestinians today have never set foot in Palestine.

The percent of Israeli Jews born in Israel or its occupied colonies is much, much lower.

Again, please get your facts straight:

With time, the percentage of “sabras” in society increased, and in recent years it has leveled off at just under 61%.

http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/Society/1)+Introduction+The+Diversity+of+Israeli+Society.htm
Actually most of Israelis are foreigners (who for some astonishing reason keep their other passport – for an insurance I assume).

If an Israeli comes to a yard where the “foreigner” has been born and has lived all his life and begins to cut his olive trees and the “foreigner” throws stones at the Israeli, is it a violent act against Israel? I do not think it is.

SimoHurtta,

What a terrible story. Is that what happened with the Jewish community of Hebron in 1929? That would explain it!;) I’ll be happy to tell you what really happened, but I don’t want to confuse you.

Here’s a defination of “political prisoner” that may help you, but I doubt you’ll learn anything from it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_prisoner

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April 26th, 2007, 4:25 pm

 

109. SimoHurtta said:

Well the 99 percent of Palestinians still living in Occupied areas, Gaza and Israel are born there. Naturally there are millions of Palestinians living abroad.

Anyway the percentage of Palestinians born and living in the area in question) is much higher as Israeli Jews born and still living there. That is a fact Akbar.

With time, the percentage of “sabras” in society increased, and in recent years it has leveled off at just under 61%.

Really are the millions from Europe, Soviet States and Ethiopia already “sabras”. Between 1989-2004 962,458 people moved from former Soviet Union. If Israel’ population now is 6,4 million (according to CIA facts) of which about 1.5 million are non-Jews it gives a result that in Israel live about 4,9 million Jews.

Your figure 61 % of the population (if you incluide the non Jews to your society) means that out of 6.4 million citizens are 3.9 million “sabras”. If now we have 1 million mostly Russian immigrants in the last two decades it means 4.9 – 1 million = 3.9 million, which makes your “sabra” figure highly suspicious. Because it is likely that a still a rather big portion of the “non-Russian” Israeli Jewish population are also imigrants.

What would be interesting to know how many Israeli Jewish citizens actually are still living in Israel. It must be a highly guarded state secret. :)

A political prisoner is someone held in prison or otherwise detained, perhaps under house arrest, because their ideas or image are deemed by a government to either challenge or threaten the authority of the state.

Most Palestinian prisoners fit to this Wiki definition you linked. You Akbar are astonishing stupid if you can’t admit it or you did not read what your link says. Actually linking it shows your level in a debate – untalented beginner and a miserable propagandist.

To the olive tree story. Did Israel exist in 1929? What has it to do with the present days land grabbing and war crimes? You Zionist have an astonishing way of making pretending to be victims. By the way modern Jews do not cut Palestinian olive trees. They uproot them and sell them to other Jews (naturally no share of the “profit” goes to the Pal’s). Hmmmmm hmmmmm Akbar isn’t that “Nazi behaviour”.

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April 26th, 2007, 8:38 pm

 

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