Posted by Joshua on Thursday, October 5th, 2006
Amnesty International has published the following report about Aref Dalilah, following a prison visit of two family members. (I thank Maureen Thomas _ email@example.com for bringing this to my attention).
It should also be mentioned that both Ali Abdullah and his son, Mohammad, were released from Prison Wednesday after completing six month terms. They had been detained in March 2006 for insulting the head of the State’sSecurity Court
. All charges against them were dismissed except for the “spreading misinformation” charge, for which they served six months.
Now that the Lebanon War is over and the Asad regime finds itself strengthened, it is releasing many of the political prisoners it incarcerated earlier this year during the lead up to the War. With European foreign ministers and Israeli politicians calling for dialogue and beginning to recognize that peace in the region cannot be advanced by ostracizing Syria, it seems that Bashar no long needs to keep such a tight rein on dissent. In particular, he no longer needs to worry about the March 14, anti-Syrian crowd in Lebanon having great influence on the Syrian opposition. Ever since the US and Israel turned against their March 14 allies in Lebanon for failing to disarm Hizbullah, their influence in the region has diminished. By destroying much of the rebuilding work that Rafiq al-Hariri had accomplished over the last decade, the US and Israel have chastened the March 14 politicians and made them less keen on attacking Syria. Because it is weaker – according to the latest polls, a majority of Lebanese now want a change of government – the government has less ability to convince Syrian opposition members to ally with it.
UA 268/06 Prisoner of conscience/medical concern
‘Aref Dalilah (m), aged around 63, former dean of the faculty of economics of Aleppo University
04 October 2006
Amnesty International is gravely concerned about the deteriorating health of prisoner of conscience, Aref Dalilah. According to reports, he recently suffered a stroke and is now completely numb down the left side of his body, and his left hand and foot are swollen. ‘Aref Dalilah is demanding access to medical care independent of the prison authorities, which the authorities have apparently repeatedly refused to provide in the past.
˜Aref Dalilah was reportedly given a brain scan, but there is no information available as to the results. He has suffered from ill-health for much of his imprisonment since September 2001. In April 2002, he suffered from deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot within a deep vein which can either partially or completely impede blood flow in the vein. It has potentially serious consequences such as a fatal pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the lung). Although it left him in urgent need of appropriate medication and specialist medical care, he was apparently returned to prison before receiving either. He also suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.
He has apparently been held in solitary confinement for three years, which is likely to have had a detrimental effect on his physical and mental health. He is being held in a small cell which does not allow him to the opportunity for physical exercise.
Aref Dalilah was arrested in September 2001 after having taken part in a political seminar earlier that month in the house of parliamentarian and former prisoner of conscience, Riad Seif (see UA 226/01, MDE 24/029/2001 and updates). He is the longest serving prisoner of several pro-democracy civil society activists arrested and given custodial sentences purely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. They were active during the so-called “Damascus Spring”, a period following the President Bashar al-Assad’s inauguration speech where he indicated an intention to increase tolerance for free speech and to allow political reforms. There followed the establishment of a number of forums where public affairs, political reforms and cultural issues were discussed which concluded with the authoritiesâ€™ clamp down on this new freedom of _expression in early 2001. By the summer of that year many of the people who had taken part in these forums were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for exercising their right to freedom of _expression (see AI report Syria: Smothering freedom of _expression: the detention of peaceful critics, MDE 24/007/2002, June 2002 here. Aref Dalilah was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose procedures fall far short of international standards for fair trial, on charges of “attempting to change the constitution by illegal means.”
Dalilah is the last of the original “Damascus Spring” prisoner to remain in Jail. He received a 10 year sentence whereas the others received 5 year sentences. It is widely believed this was because he is an Alawi and the regime takes special umbridge at “one of their own” turning against it. A few other Damascus Spring members have been returned to jail this last year, most notably Michel Kilo and Kamal al-Labwani.