Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
This report was just sent to me by a young human rights activist in Syria. It speaks for itself.
Trial of Eight Political Prisoners of the Syrian Youth Movement Postponed
They are Held Incommunicado and Face the Risk of Physical and Psychological Torture
Eight Syrian young men who were arrest between January and March 2006 for alleged pro-democracy activities in Damascus continue to held incommunicado and without legal counsel since their arrest. Most are students at the University of Damascus. Their names are: ‘Ali Nizar ‘Ali, Husam ‘Ali Mulhim, Tarek Ghorani, Maher Ibrahim, Ayham Saqr, Alam Fakhour, ‘Omar ‘Ali al-’Abdullah and Diab Sirieyeh.
Originally detained at the Air Force Intelligence Branch in Harasta, near Damascus, they are believed to be held with other military and political prisoners in Sydnaya Prison. Their first trial was scheduled for 26 September 2006 at the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in Damascus. Air Force Intelligence, suspected to be one of the most dangerous and brutal branches of the Syrian security apparatus, is known to use tactics of torture and cruel and unusual punishment, including physical and psychological abuse. As they have had no contact with family, friends or human rights workers, many fear their lives are in grave danger.
The lack of visitation rights and legal counsel are particularly troubling to human rights activists in Syria. Despite numerous requests, all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience held in the Sydnaya Prison are continually denied visitation rights and contact with family. Those arrested since last year that have yet to be sentenced have remained incommunicado and in considerable danger. Syrian officials have continually withheld information about the eight young men arrested and have yet to offer any news regarding their wellbeing or whereabouts. This violation of human rights is particularly troubling and indicates that those held in Sydnaya may undergo various forms of torture and abuse.
As family, friends, lawyers and human rights workers arrived for the trial, they were told to disperse immediately and informed that the trial had been postponed two months, to be held on 26 November 2006. A police paddy wagon arrived carrying some three middle-aged prisoners with their hands bound and eyes blindfolded. Armed guards escorted the men into the SSSC to await trial. At this point Syrian police began shouting, “Go away! These are not the ones you’re here for!”
People awaiting the arrival of the eight young men were angry to see that none of the eight were not among those present. Further upset by the dramatic arrival of the other prisoners, the psychological effect on the family and friends outside the courthouse was unbearable. Full of emotion and tears, a mother of one detainee stood holding a tattered bag of food and personal belongings for her son that would never reach him. The mother of Omar Al Abdullah, arrested 23 March 2006, awaited her son with a stoic sadness. Her husband, journalist Ali Al Abdullah, and other son, Mohammad, are also in custody for another political matter and set to face trial on September 27th at the Military Court.
The postponement of the trial is the most worrying aspect of recent events. Human rights activists in Damascus have noted that it is extremely unusual in Syria to postpone a trial in this way. This postponement, combined with a denial of visitation rights, has aggravated concerns that these men’s lives are in danger.
For background information on the eight Syrian youth, please visit the following sites: Amnesty International report, Syrian Human Rights Information Link (SHRIL), including background and photos of the eight youth, and a petition calling for the release of the eight youth.