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Syria must drop sentences against 14 POCs

Syria must drop sentences against 14 POCs

Amnesty International today condemned the sentencing of 14 political activists for up to one year in prison following an unfair trial before the Military Court in Aleppo. The organization considers the charges brought against the activists to be arbitrary and calls for the sentences to be dropped.

The military court convicted the activists of "affiliation to a secret organization and carrying out acts that could incite factional conflict within the nation" and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three months to one year. The sentences which were passed in accordance with the 1963 state of emergency law are subject to appeal before the Military Court of Appeal.

The 14 political activists were initially detained for several hours in August 2003 as they were waiting to attend a seminar in Aleppo focusing on the state of emergency in Syria, and were subsequently referred to the military court.

The men are Fateh Jamus, who was handed down the longest sentence of one year in prison, Safwan 'Akkash, 'Abd al-Ghani Bakri, Hazim 'Ajaj al-Aghra'i, Muhammad Deeb Kor, 'Abd al-Jawwad al-Saleh, Hashem al-Hashem, Yassar Qaddur, Zaradesht Muhammad, Rashid Sha'ban, Fuad Bawadqji, Ghazi Mustafa, Najib Dedem and Samir 'Abd al-Karim Nashar.

Both Fateh Jamus, Safwan 'Akkash are members of the unauthorized Party for Communist Action (PCA) and former prisoners of conscience (POCs) who in 1983 were sentenced to 15 years in prison after grossly unfair trials. They were tortured and ill-treated. As a leading member of the PCA Fateh Jamus has in recent years been actively involved with the emerging civil society groups in Syria. He was a signatory of a memo presented to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2002 by dozens of former POCs calling for the restrictions imposed on them after long years in prison to be lifted and for their civil rights to be restored.

Amnesty International has repeatedly raised with the Syrian authorities its grave concerns about human violations in Syria, including the recent increase of arbitrary arrest and detention of political activists, systematic targeting of members of the Kurdish community and gross violation of Syria's obligations under international human rights laws.

"The organization once again calls on the Syrian authorities to take immediate steps to curb human rights violations, abrogate all the laws that allow such abuses including the 1963 state of emergency law, and to allow human rights activists and bodies to function freely and not to be subjected to arbitrary restrictions."

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