Syria: Prominent human rights activist sentenced to five years in prison
One of Syria's most known human rights activists was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday. Anwar al-Bunni, who was among several dissidents held for the past year following Syria's biggest crackdown on critics of the regime in years, told the court he would not be silenced.
"This verdict is a political verdict," al-Bunni, a lawyer, told the court after a judge read out the verdict, according to his brother, Akram al-Bunni.
In April 2006, al-Bunni reported on a suspected Islamic fundamentalist who died in prison, allegedly from torture, and spoke out in support of Kurdish dissidents amid a government crackdown against them.
A founding member of the Syrian Human Rights Association, he was also among 500 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals who signed the so-called "Damascus Declaration" that called on the Syrian government to improve ties with neighboring Lebanon, a sensitive issue in Syria. In May last year, a week after signing the declaration, he and at least eight other activists were arrested.
During earlier hearings, al-Bunni told the court he was "proud" of the charges stemming from his work as a rights activist, according to the Syrian Organization for Human Rights.
According to the AP, Tuesday's ruling convicted al-Bunni of spreading false or exaggerated news that could weaken national morale, affiliating with an unlicensed political association of an international nature, discrediting state institutions and contacting a foreign country.