Syrian Human Right Activists Jailed; 2005 Document Signed With Syrian Muslim Brotherhood


Agence France is reporting that Syrian opposition leaders were sentenced to 30 months in prison as the result of a document signed in 2005 by secular opposition parties and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, based in London. According to the report:

Twelve opposition activists who called for democratic reforms in Syria were sentenced to 30 months behind bars on Wednesday at the end of a trial which human rights groups say was unfair. Ammar Qorabi, head of the National Organisation of Human Rights in Syria (NOHRC), said the 12 signatories of the “Damascus Declaration” calling for democratic change were condemned in a Damascus court for “damaging the state.” Author Ali Abdullah, Dr Walid Bunni, writer Akram Bunni, former MP Riad Seif, Fidaa Hurani were sentenced as were Ahmad Tomeh, Jabr al-Shufi, Yasser al-Iti, Mohammed Haji Darwish, Marwan al-Ish, Fayez Sara and Talal Abu-Dan.Akram Bunni is a brother of human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni, who is serving a five-year jail term. After a three-month trial, the 12 activists were initially sentenced to six years for having “spread false information which weakens the morale of the nation and damages the state.” But the judge shortened the term to 30 months, Qorabi said. He said the dissidents, who were arrested last December and January, had the right to appeal.At the opening of the trial on July 30, the dissidents denied the charges. “They stressed that the Damascus Declaration was not an undertaking (carried out) in a secret manner and that its aim was to defend the homeland,” the NOHRC said at the time. It was the biggest collective trial of Syrian dissidents since 2001 after the so-called Damascus Spring, the brief period of relative freedom of expression that followed President Bashar al-Assad’s rise to power in 2000. In 2005, secular Syrian opposition parties and the London-based Muslim Brotherhood signed a founding text entitled the Damascus Declaration which called for “a democratic and radical change.” A national council was formed in Syria last December but most of its members have since been arrested.

In 1982 Hafez Assad, the father of the current Syrian President, launched massive military action against an uprising by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama. As a result of this action, large parts of the city were destroyed resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths. Numerous Syrian Muslim Brothers fled the country and joined the global jihadist network. As a publication covering the Mideast explains :

In the aftermath of Hama, expressions of Islamist opposition to the regime virtually disappeared. Many men even stopped growing beards for fear of inviting suspicions of the intelligence services. Thousands of Islamist radicals fled overseas. The brotherhood’s exiled leadership adapted to a life of communiques and coffee shops, while those who still felt that the sword was more powerful than the fax machine went to Afghanistan and joined the global jihadist movement. The prevalence of Syrians in both the leadership and ranks of Al-Qaeda is second only to the Saudis, and the influence of their takfiri outlook is today felt in Iraq, where the entire Shiite population has been designated fair game for mass murder.

The remaining elements of the Syrian Brotherhood leadership in exile do not generally appear to interact with the global Brotherhood networks normally covered in these pages.

For a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, go here.For a comprehensive account of Islamist activities in Syria, go here.

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