In a series of exemplary punishment of political activists and human rights defenders in Syria, the trial of Michel Kilo, a dissident writer and journalist, is in process today. Mr. Kilo is a prominent member of the Committees for the Revival of Civil Society in Syria and member of the Coordination Committee of the Damascus Declaration launched by civil and political bodies for the defense of reform and democracy in Syria.
It is noteworthy that Michel Kilo has been detained in “Adra” prison since early May 2006, after being arrested together with some political activists, on top of whom were Anwar al- Binni and Mahmoud Issa. They were subjected to such procedures after signing a petition that called on Syria to improve relations with Lebanon but on a different basis. This petition was signed by more than 250 Syrian intellectuals. Thus, the procedures of arrest and referral to court were in themselves a kind of exemplary punishment of Syrian activists who dared declare their political opinion regarding the Syrian/Lebanese file. The latter was a taboo –until recently- even for the Lebanese due to the great pressures resulting from the Syrian military presence in Lebanon.
Charges made against Michel Kilo and his companions were based on provisions of the penal code, which is replete with undisciplined texts, endowing Syrian authorities with the power to use them regularly against opponents or any citizen who dared express his/her political opinion publicly, or criticize the regime and its practices.
In this context, Michel Kilo was faced with many ironic charges, including “attempting to weaken national sentiment”, “damaging the reputation of the state”, and “inciting sectarian and religious divisions”. Mahmoud Issa is facing an additional charge, namely “committing acts prohibited by government which expose Syria to the danger of aggression”.
It should be noted that Michel Kilo, who appears before a Criminal Court of Second Degree, is meanwhile facing another referral decision to a military court, for charges against him under article 150 of the code of military judicial. This article provides for a five-year prison sentence to anyone who publishes a political article or gives a political speech with the aim of making propaganda for a political party, organization or group. This referral to military justice was allegedly due to the fact that Michel Kilo and others attempted to promote the aforementioned petition, known as “the Damascus/Beirut Declaration” inside their places of detention and to persuade inmates to join them in this Declaration!
Charges that Kilo and his companions are facing are almost a carbon copy of charges that were often made against many political activists and defenders of human rights in Syria, in a series of unfair trials that took place throughout last year. Such trials exhibit the severe and inflexible attitude of Syrian authorities not only against those who occupy part of Syrian territories, but also against those among their citizens who seek freedom for their people.
CIHRS requests Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Michael Kilo and Anwar al-Binni, and drop all charges made against them and their companions. CIHRS also stresses that unfair trials should come to an end, that all prisoners of conscience, political activists and defenders of human rights should be released, first and foremost Kamal al-Labouani, founder of the Liberal Democratic Front in Syria, human rights activist Nizar Resentawi, and renown writer ’Aref Dalila, former dean of the faculty of economics. CIHRS also called upon Syrian authorities to freeze those archaic penal provisions, which are a disgrace to the Syrian regime and stigma to the already ominous human rights record in Syria
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