Syria: Government critics sentenced to heavy prison term

'Aref Dalilah, Walid al-Bunni and eight others were arbitrarily arrested and detained in August and September 2001 for their involvement with emerging civil society groups and discussion forums. On 26 June, Riad al-Turk was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment on similar charges by the SSSC in a related case. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the non-violent expression of their views.

'This continuing campaign targeting human rights activists and government critics is testimony to the fact that the mechanisms facilitating human rights violations in Syria are still in place and that the Syrian Government has not lived up to its commitment and obligation under international human rights treaties to ensure protection and promotion of human rights,' Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International considers trials held before the SSSC to be grossly unfair as they do not follow guarantees set forth in international fair trial standards. There is no right to appeal the decisions of the SSSC.

The organisation is also concerned about the health of 'Aref Dalilah, who is reported to be suffering from deep vein thrombosis and requires urgent medical treatment. He was allegedly beaten and ill-treated while he was held in 'Adra Prison.

'These prisoners of conscience should never have been arrested in the first place. They must be released immediately and unconditionally,' Amnesty International added.

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