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Award-Winning Syrian Human Rights Lawyer Jailed for Three Years
LONDON - Amnesty International has condemned a
three year prison sentence imposed today on a Syrian lawyer and human
rights defender who had publicised the unfair trials of political
prisoners and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
Muhannad al-Hassani, who in May won the prestigious 2010 Martin
Ennals Award recognising the work of human rights defenders, was
convicted by a Damascus court on Wednesday.
“Muhannad al-Hassani should not have been on trial in the first
place,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the
Middle East and North Africa.
“He is a prisoner of conscience who has done no more than stand up
for the human rights of those who fall foul of the Syrian authorities
and expose unfair trials and other abuses.”
The Damascus Criminal Court sentenced al-Hassani to three years in
prison after convicting him of “weakening national sentiment” and
“conveying within Syria false news that could debilitate the morale of
the nation”– vague and broadly-drawn catch all charges that are
regularly used by the Syrian authorities to jail peaceful critics and
individuals who promote human rights in the country.
Two Amnesty International delegates were present in the court when the sentence was handed down.
The charges were brought against Muhannad al-Hassani after he drew
public attention to unfair trials of political prisoners before the
notorious Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and a death that may have
been caused by torture or other ill-treatment in detention, and met
foreign embassy officials to discuss human rights.
He also played a leading role in Sawasiyah, a local human rights
organisation which, like others, has not been legally authorised by the
authorities. He was arrested on 28 July 2009, days after he observed a
trial before the SSSC during which an official seized and destroyed his
“Muhannad al-Hassani’s contribution to human rights has been
internationally recognized,” said Smart, “Yet, in Syria he has been
prosecuted and jailed as if he were an enemy of the state.”
“It is now high time for President Assad to intervene. He should
order the immediate and unconditional release of Muhannad al-Hassani
and order that the sentence and the charges against him are wiped from
In May, Muhannad al-Hassani was named as the winner of the 2010
Martin Ennals Award, the most prestigious international prize
recognizing the work of human rights defenders around the world.
Muhannad al-Hassani has acted as defence lawyer in a series of
trials of political prisoners and has gained a reputation as an
outstanding defender of human rights.
The charges on which he was convicted carry a three to 15 year term of imprisonment.
His lawyers are considering an appeal.
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