Twelve Signees of Damascus Declaration Arrested
Twelve Signees of Damascus Declaration Arrested
Thursday, October 30,2008 05:43

The Damascus Criminal Court pronounced prison sentences against twelve signees of the "Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change" in Syria for terms ranging from three to six years on charges of "weakening patriotic spirit by spreading false news."  The judge, however, decided to merge the two punishments and reduce the prison term to two and a half years.

Syrian authorities had arrested the accused at separate times following the first session of the National Council for the Damascus Declaration for National Democratic Change which was held on December 2007 to elect its leaders and give its conclusive statement calling for the establishment of a national democratic system and the return of rule by people and circulation of power.

Among those convicted were the prominent opposition figure and Former MP currently suffering from cancer, Riyad Seif, the Declaration"s Office Head, Fida" El-Hourany, the National Council"s Head, Ahmed Te"ma and Akram El-Bunni, the Council"s Secretaries, and Secretariat Members Ali Abdullah, Gabr El-Shoufi, Walid El-Bunni, and Yaser El-Eity.

The sentence was pronounced in a public session attended by Western Syria embassy representatives, observers from civil societies in Syria, lawyers, detained relatives, and a number of others concerned with the general situation in Syria.

Secretary-General of the Syrian Democratic Current and Damascus Declaration Committee Head in Britain Mohyid-deen Al-Ladhiqani said, "The judicial system in Syria is political, not independent, and the rulings it has issued are destined to end as they are re-looked into pointing out that if the Syrian regime wants to improve its relations with the West it must go back on these rulings."

Al-Ladhiqani also added that the judicial system and security and investigations personnel are only executors of the regime"s orders to them adding that more room should be given for free and independent national opposition.

It is mentioned that human rights groups as well as Western governments, including the American, have condemned this case.  For his part, American President George Bush called for the release of Seif in a speech he gave last July.

This issue is expected to increase the tension in the American-Syrian relations especially after the American attack on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

Last August, after seven years in prison, Syrian authorities had released the prominent opposition figure and Economic Expert Dr. Aref Dalila by virtue of a presidential mercy.

Dalila had been arrested on September 9, 2001 along with a number of democratic rights activists in Syria in the case which came to be known as the detainees of "Damascus" spring," and was sentenced to prison on 2002 for 10 years on a number of charges including "inciting armed rebellion."