Amnesty raps sentencing of Syrian lawyer

NGO: Trial unfair, politically driven; say defendant was not given full access to his lawyers.

assad cool 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
assad cool 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Amnesty International has condemned the five-year sentence given to human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni by the Damascus Criminal Court last week for "spreading false information harmful to the state." The London-based NGO has expressed concern for what they see as an unfair, politically driven trial in which the defendant was not given full access to his lawyers. Bunni heads the Damascus Centre for Legal Studies and a European Union-funded human rights NGO that was closed down by the authorities in 2006. He has consistently denied the charge, which Amnesty say seems to be linked to his human rights defense work. Malcolm Smart, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty, said: "This deals another blow to human rights and human rights activists in Syria who have been the target of an intimidation campaign by the authorities. The Syrian authorities should show more commitment to human rights and should cease locking up peaceful critics and advocates of reform." Bunni was arrested along with 10 others for signing the Beirut-Damascus Declaration, a petition calling for the normalization of ties between Syria and Lebanon. Since his arrest in May 2006, he has been held at Adra Prison, near Damascus, and been subjected to beatings and degrading treatment, according to Amnesty. Dyala Al-Hag, Syria's minister for social affairs and labor, has called for him to be stripped of his citizenship.