Two Syrian human rights activists sent to jail

Published July 31st, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Two Syrian dissidents, leading economist Aref Dalila and physician Waleed Bunni, were given Wednesday jail sentences by the state security court of 10 and five years respectively for "harming the constitution", a defence lawyer told AFP.  


"They are unjust condemnations which have no legal basis. They are aimed at silencing and suppressing (dissenting) voices," lawyer Khalil Maatuk said. Reporters were barred from the court room.  


Dalila, 60, former head of the economic faculty in Aleppo, was the spokesman of the opposition Committees for Reviving Civil Society and called for political and economic reforms to proceed side by side. He also urged more transparency in Syria's rigid state-run economy.  


The judge initially condemned Dalila to a total of 16 years in prison on three charges, also including "incitement to armed sedition" and "spreading false information affecting the morals of the nation," but only imposed the 10-year heaviest sentence on the constitutional charge, the lawyer said.  


Dalila's wife said the sentence was "a farce and unjust." Al-Buni's wife told reporters that the sentence against her husband was "a slow death sentence"  


Bunni, whose combined sentence totalled 11 years but was similarly cut to five, was a founding member of the Syrian human rights association and an active participant in political meetings.  


Both men were arrested in September last year in a crackdown on critics of the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.  


Maatuk argued the "sentences are invalid since they come from a special tribunal which does not guarantee defence rights" or allow appeals. He emphasized "the importance of a fair trial guaranteeing human rights" by the state and a true separation of legal powers.  


Aktham Naisse, head of the Committees for Defending Human Rights in Syria, said the sentences fed concern "about the future of human rights in Syria." ( 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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