Court convicts 3 Syrians of belonging to extremist Islamic group

Court convicts 3 Syrians of belonging to extremist Islamic group

The Associated Press

Published: November 12, 2007

DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria’s State Security Court has convicted three Syrians of belonging to an extremist Islamic group and sentenced them to between four and eight years in prison, a local human rights group said Monday.

Dr. Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press in Damascus that the court sentenced the three on Sunday.

The men, identified as Mahmoud al-Sheik Bin Mohammad, Mohammad al-Hamoud Bin Abdul-Majid and Ali Mohammad Barbour Bin Darwish, received eight, six and four year sentences each. The three were convicted of “belonging to a secret association seeking to change Syria’s economic and political structure,” Qurabi said.

The three were found guilty of belonging to an “Islamic jihad” group but the group was not named and it was not said whether it had any links to al-Qaida, Qurabi added.

There was no statement from the Syrian government, which rarely comments on the detention and prosecution of suspects wanted in political or security-related cases.

Qurabi condemned the verdicts, which cannot be appealed, and called for the abolition of the 1963 emergency law they were based on, and for the dismantling of the State Security Court, which was set up in line with that law.

Although Qurabi said he does not consider the three men as political prisoners, he said he was protesting their convictions because they were issued by the state security court rather than by a civilian court.

Qurabi said that the 1963 emergency law was still “one of the main obstacles to Syria becoming a state of law and institutions.”

“The 1963 law suspended most of the constitutional articles which called for public freedoms,” he said, adding that the legislation created the state security court and expanded the authority of the military court.

Local and international human rights groups say Syria is holding hundreds of political prisoners and rights activists and have called for their release from prison.

Since February, six government critics and human rights campaigners have been convicted and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. They included one of Syria’s most respected writers, Michel Kilo, and prominent lawyer Anwar al-Bunni.

Since coming to power in 2000, President Bashar Assad has freed political prisoners and passed laws aimed at liberalizing the state-controlled economy. But he has also clamped down on political activists, jailing pro-democracy advocates and cracking down on government critics.




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