Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kamal al-Labwani's Trial

I have received three notes from Maureen Thomas of England, who has been a tireless defender and advocate of Kamal al-Labwani's. You may remember that Kamal was one of the Damascus Spring members who were arrested in 2001. Last year he flew to Washington, where he met with US officials to speak about opposition matters. On his return to Syria he was arrested. He gained particular notoriety because President Bush mentioned his arrest in a speech and asked for his release by name. This was the first time the US had given particular attention to a member of the Syrian opposition. Labwani was an odd choice for such attention. He was not well known in Syria and had not made a prominent name for himself among members of the Syrian opposition. His arrest went unnoticed by most Syrians as did President Bush's remarks.

The episode demonstrated how little Washington understands about Syria's internal affairs and how much it must learn before it can effectively exploit the Syrian opposition to pressure President Bashar al-Asad.

Unfortunately, Kamal al-Labwani is paying for the terrible state of affairs between the two countries. One can only hope that his sacrifices will pay off someday.

Here are Maureen's notes.

The first is from May 6, 2006: Maureen wrote:

Dear Prof. Landis,

I expect you know the current situation regarding my dear friend Dr Kamal al-Labwani: that he has now been formally charged with "inciting a foreign nation to occupy Syria" and that he faces life imprisonment or execution if any attack on Syria does take place. This is bitterly ironic because, all the time he was in UK, Europe and US last year, he told everyone who would listen to him that any attack or sanctions imposed on Syria would be totally wrong because it would be the ordinary people who would suffer and they had endured enough hardship. No date has been set for his trial.

Best wishes,
Maureen Thomas (Basildon, England)
The second note came on May 10, 2006
Dear Professor Landis,

I copy below a message received from Dr Kamal al-Labwani's family very late on Wednesday night.

Best wishes,
Maureen Thomas

"......... I have very bad news to tell you about.

The trial will start tomorrow and it will be the first session. It will be at nine o’clock in the morning (7 am British Summer Time). It is not in public. It is like an investigation: the judge will ask him about the things he talked about (while he was in Europe and US last year) and he will face him with the new charge, and they will say when the second session is.

This time is the hardest time, and he needs now support and pressures to release him more than any other time.

Please, if you can, help us by talking about his case and the unfair charges against him in public like on channels. And try to get media cover for his trial and the unfair charges and ask the members of European Parliament and the British Parliament which our father met when he was in the UK and Europe to be witnesses on media and deny the charge because they heard his opinion and they know it is not true.

And please maybe you as Amnesty International members which our father lived with for more than one month and know him and his ideas very well, say that it is not true.

These things will help our father and it will be a very good thing to do specially at this time. Making public his case or leading the Amnesty press release campaigns specially on the media or channels will move the public opinion against the authority inside and outside Syria.

Any way thank you very much. Maybe we are pushing you too hard but please do what you can do.

Sorry for these lots of requests and with our best wishes

Kamal family"
The last note came today - May 14, 2006
Dear Prof. Landis,

This afternoon I received the following e-mail from Kamal's family, and his wife and daughter have just telephoned me to make sure I got the message and that I will do everything I can to publicise the fact of the hearing.

Best wishes,
Maureen Thomas

The date for the next session of our father’s trial is on the 22nd of this month, so it is not this Monday it is the next Monday. We hope that members from the European Commission in Damascus and members from European Embassies in Damascus will attend the hearing.

Thank you a lot and is there any new news ?

From Kamal's family


At 5/15/2006 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

Yes, it's Washington's fault! Right. The same goes for Kilo, the Abdallahs, Jamous, Ghanem, Drar, and the hundreds upon hundreds of activists being arrested and prosecuted on a daily basis.

You're such a pathetic apologist for thugs. Pathetic.

PS: Anyone who advised the US to back Bashar in squashing Syrian Sunnis in a NYT op-ed has no business whatsoever criticizing Washington and advising it on Syria policy.

At 5/15/2006 10:20:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...
The Syrian authorities are reported to have detained prominent activist and writer Michel Kilo, though there is no official confirmation of the arrest.

His family said he was summoned for questioning by the security police on Sunday and has not been released.

A local human rights group said it expected Mr Kilo to be put on trial for signing a petition published in a leading anti-Syrian Lebanese newspaper.

The petition condemns political assassinations to silence dissent.

Hundreds of Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals signed the document, which was published last week in the Nahar newspaper.

It calls on Syria to release all Lebanese political detainees, while underlining the need to "respect and consolidate the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon and Syria" in the face of "Israeli aggression and American hegemony".

United Nations investigators have accused Syrian officials of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri - an allegation denied by Damascus.

Syria frequently arrests human rights activists and others who publicly criticise government policies.

Humans rights group Amnesty International says several hundred political prisoners are detained in Syrian jails, where they risk of torture and ill-treatment.

At 5/15/2006 10:52:00 AM, Blogger zamzami said...

اعتقال الكاتب السوري ميشيل كيلو

الاثنين 15 أيار/ مايو 2006

دمشق - أخبار الشرق

اعتقلت السلطات السورية مساء الأحد؛ الكاتب السوري المعارض ورئيس المركز الوطني للدفاع عن حرية الصحافة والصحفيين (حريات) ميشيل كيلو.

وكان كيلو، وهو أيضاً ناشط في لجان إحياء المجتمع المدني، قد استدعي إلى فرع أمن الدولة بدمشق هاتفياً في الساعة الثانية عشرة من ظهر يوم الأحد (14/5/2006). وقد ذهب كيلو لمراجعة الفرع المذكور بعد نصف ساعة من استدعائه، لكنه لم يعد إلى بيته حتى الآن. ونُقل عن زوجته قولها إنها لا تعرف سبب استدعائه، ولم يبلغها أحد أي شيء عن زوجها بعد مرور 24 ساعة على غيابه.

من جهته، قال رئيس المنظمة الوطنية لحقوق الانسان في سورية عمار قربي؛ ان كيلو اعتقل على خلفية توقيعه على بيان المثقفين السوريين واللبنانيين الاسبوع الماضي. وعبر قربي عن "صدمته" لاعتقال كيلو، باعتباره "يمثل الاعتدال السياسي" في سورية.

وكان 272 مثقفاً وناشطاً وسياسياً سورياً ولبنانياً قد دعوا في اعلان مشترك الى تصحيح جذري للعلاقات السورية اللبنانية، استناداً إلى احترام سيادة البلدين

At 5/15/2006 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...


Silverberg rules out deals with Syria on Hariri killing
Majdoline Hatoum
694 words
16 May 2006
Daily Star
Beirut -- BEIRUT: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of International Organization Kristen Silverberg said Monday her country does not intend to strike any deals with Syria over the investigation into the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

"The United States will not make any deal with Syria or anyone else in the international community at the expense of the freedom of Lebanon," Silverberg said following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh in Beirut.

"I underscored the importance the U.S. gives to the work of the UN Independent International Investigations Commission in pursuing its investigation to its ultimate conclusions, wherever they may lead," she added.

Silverberg is in Lebanon for a two-day visit that ends Tuesday, to follow up on the recent visit of the official delegation, headed by Premier Fouad Siniora, who visited the U.S. recently. Silverberg met Monday with Siniora, Justice Minister Charles Rizk, Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad, as well as Salloukh.

Silverberg said she discussed with Salloukh U.S. efforts to pass a resolution at the UN calling on Syria to cooperate with Lebanon on demarcating borders and establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"I expressed to the foreign minister, the firm, enduring and non-negotiable support of the U.S. for Lebanon. In this regard, I discussed the ongoing efforts by the U.S., working in tandem

with France and the U.K., to ensure that the UN Security Council provides its full backing to Lebanon to fully realize its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence," Silverberg said.

The draft resolution presented to the Security Council last Friday is opposed by Russia, China and Qatar, which are contending there is no need for a new resolution naming Syria by the SC. But efforts by the U.S., France and the U.K. to prove the need for such a resolution are under way with the Council expected to vote on it soon.

"I discussed the importance of a strong follow-up resolution to UNSCR 1559 to achieve that goal, and conveyed to the foreign minister the commitment of my government to that end," Silverberg added.

She said her country acknowledges the importance of Lebanon's national dialogue in promoting discussion on some of Lebanon's most challenging issues.

The dialogue is set to decide on ousting President Lahoud during Tuesday's session, with the main political parties indicating there will be no solution to this issue, and saying they will move on to discussing the issue of Hizbullah's weapons, which the U.S. would like to see disarmed as soon as possible.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Salloukh said he also raised the issue of the UN's Interim Force in South Lebanon with Silverberg. "We stressed on the important role they play and the need for their continued presence which is contributing to peace and security in Lebanon," he said.

Following her meeting with Rizk, in the presence of Judges Choukri Sadr and Ralph Riachy, Silverberg said her meeting at the Justice Ministry aimed to affirm U.S. support for Lebanon's efforts to promote the rule of law in the country.

"This is an essential step toward establishing a strong, united and democratic Lebanon. ... the U.S. applauds the consensus that has developed as a result of Lebanon's national talks on ... the establishment of a special tribunal of international character," to try suspects in Hariri's murder.

"The United States pledges to support Lebanon - in partnership with the international community - in identifying and bringing to justice those responsible for the assassination of Hariri. The long, sad list of unsolved political assassinations in Lebanon must have an end. The UNIIIC is an important step in bringing into the light those who have for too many years operated in the dark shadows of Lebanon's political life," Silverberg said.

Rizk said Lebanon was committed to following up on the establishment of an international tribunal with the UN. "Of course, the Security Council member states have shown a special interest in this issue, and we will keep cooperating."

At 5/15/2006 05:38:00 PM, Blogger George Ajjan said...

FYI, today Libya became the first country to be removed from the US´s State Sponsors of Terrorism list by means others than military invasion.

article here

At 5/15/2006 08:38:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Libya is not at the boarder with Israel as Syria is .

At 5/18/2006 11:58:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

"State Sponsors of Terrorism list" what ever that means. As if it's not a politicized list. Let's not be naive and think that the list corollates to reality. In other words, that list needs to be much larger and it would include the US.


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