Syria’s Crackdown on Opposition on the Go

Published September 10th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Five Syrian opposition supporters, including two doctors with close ties to detained independent MP Riad Seif, have been arrested in the past 24 hours, the official SANA news agency said Sunday, cited by AFP. 

Meanwhile, TV and radio reports said that 30 other activists will be arrested within the coming few days. 

"Kamal Labuani, Habib Saleh, Aref Dalila, Hassan Saadun and Walid al-Bunni were arrested for committing acts in violation of the law," SANA said, adding they would be referred to a "competent tribunal." 

Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) spokesman Aktham Naisse earlier told AFP that the doctors, Labuani, 44, and 38-year-old Bunni, were taken from their homes Saturday night over "activities for human rights and democracy." 

Labuani, who lives in Zabadani, a mountain village some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Damascus, and Bunni, who lives in the capital, were "taken from their homes by authorities in not a very respectful manner," he said. 

Labuani is also a member of the SHRC, he added. 

Dalila, former head of the economics faculty at northern Aleppo University, was arrested Sunday, while 52-year-old businessman Saleh was being questioned in the northwestern port city of Tartus, the SHRC spokesman added. 

All four men attended a political forum hosted by Seif on the eve of his arrest last week that was sharply critical of the ruling Baath party. 

At the meeting Dalila, in his 60s, harshly criticized corruption among officials in Syria, and on Friday also publicly denounced Seif's arrest. 

Saleh also denounced the ruling Baath party at the forum, and himself had hosted a similar meeting in Tartus at the start of the year, said AFP. 

Saadun is a retired teacher from northeastern Qamechli province, said opposition sources, who did not provide further details on his activities. 

Seif is an independent MP who has been outspoken for political reform of Syria's four decades of one-party rule, the suspension of martial law, and the release of political prisoners. 

The government declared gatherings like Seif's illegal without prior official consent in mid-February. 

The arrests raise to eight the number of opposition figures detained by authorities in the past month, creating fears of a crackdown. 

The country's best known dissident, 71-year-old former communist leader Riad Turk, was arrested September 1 following his first political speech since his 1998 release after 17 years in prison for opposing former president Hafez al-Assad. 

Independent MP Maamun Al Homsi, who founded a parliamentary human rights commission several months ago, was arrested August 9 after going on a hunger strike to protest against official corruption and state security measures. 

Also on Sunday, the state press repeated its warnings that opposition members who "insult the state will be punished by justice." 

The mouthpiece of the Baath party, the al-Baath daily, accused opposition members of trying to foster opinions "in an attempt to create dissent capable of weakening national unity." 

President Bashar Al Assad came to power in July 2000, succeeding his father, Hafez. He vowed upon taking office to respect freedom of expression and bring in reforms to clean up the economy. 

 

On Saturday, 14 political salons denounced the “arbitrary detentions” and called for an immediate release of all political prisoners, reported agencies.  

“Such (detentions) run contrary to the principles of law, the constitution and all human rights,” according to a statement jointly signed by the groups and faxed to The Associated Press office in Damascus.  

Detaining people who reveal Syria's weaknesses and corruption “hinders” national economic and social growth and weakens the chance to “liberate its occupied lands.” Syria wants Israel to return the Golan Heights, a strategic area of land occupied by the Jewish state since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.  

On Friday, a human rights group, the Committee for Reviving Civil Society, described such arrests as “a prelude to bringing back the climate of tension” in Syria – Albawaba.com

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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