Arrested Syrian MP Charged with ‘Defaming Constitution’
Syrian MP Ma’moun Al Homsi, who was arrested on Thursday, has been charged with "defamation of the Constitution and hostility toward the regime,” an interior ministry statement said on Friday.
Homsi, a businessman who has called for the formation of a human rights group in Parliament, was arrested two days after he went on a hunger strike to protest what he said was pressure on him.
Upon launching his hunger strike on Tuesday, Homsi released a statement accusing the state of "ignoring all our demands for a limit to the state of emergency in Syria (declared in 1963), the pursuit of the struggle against corruption, and the stopping of the security service's intervention in daily life."
He charged the authorities with having brought pressure to bear on him for his "audacious" demands, including his protest against "imaginary" taxes of close to $1 million and his demands for greater civil liberties.
The ministry statement, carried by the official Syrian news agency, SANA, said that the authorities had realized that Homsi’s remarks included "defamation of the Constitution," in addition to an attempt to prevent the authorities from practicing their tasks as stated in the law.
“His statements are an attempt to threaten national unity and resist the activities of the state's institutions and defame the legislative, executive and judicial authorities,” said the ministry's statement.
It added that according to documents reported by the finance ministry, Homsi has been evading taxes totaling about $900,000, and “when he realized that he was unable to avoid paying his taxes any longer, he decided to twist the facts and issue a statement that would indicate that he is a political victim instead of a criminal suspect.”
The charges call for a minimal penalty of 15 years in prison," Shebli Al Shami, a friend and a member of the Committee for the Reactivation of Civil Society (CRSC), a grouping of Syrian intellectuals, told AFP.
Shami added that Homsi, 45, could be held by police for either several hours or "indefinitely," according to the investigation's demands.
The government has lifted Homsi's parliamentary immunity at least partially under the order of parliament speaker Abdel Kader Kaddura, Shamsi said, who dismissed the action as outside Kaddura's jurisdiction.
"Kaddura has violated international agreements, to which the Syrian Parliament subscribes, that is a citizens' right to express his opinion, protest and demonstrate," Shamsi said.
Homsi is a well-known businessman who has been a member of Parliament for 11 years.
In late June, Homsi had called for a parliamentary human rights commission to be formed to examine complaints.
Homsi had hung a large banner outside the office where he was maintaining his hunger strike on which his charges were written.
His son said that as he was being led away by police, they asked him to remove the banner, but he refused.
Homsi's son added that his father suffered from diabetes and was in poor health, largely due to his hunger strike.
Homsi's strike is the first of its kind by an MP in several decades.
The Syrian Parliament consists of 250 deputies, including 82 independents.
It is dominated by the Baath Party and its coalition of six other parties, known collectively as the National Progressive Front – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)