Syria: al-Bunni

Lawyer Anwar al-Bunni is the founding member of the Syrian Human Rights Association. He is the head of the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience. He has represented many prisoners of conscience in Syria.  He is also the president of the Office of Studies and Juridical Consulting in Damascus.

 

Mr. Anwar al-Bunni was arrested on May 17, 2006 after signing the Beirut-Damascus Declaration, a petition drawn up by 274 Syrian and Lebanese human rights activists asking Syria to improve its diplomatic relations with Lebanon by respecting Lebanon's independence and sovereignty.

 

Upon his arrest, he was charged with 'undermining national pride', 'incitement to racial and sectarian hatred', and with 'slander of public administrative and governmental bodies.' Since his arrest, Anwar al-Bunni has refused to speak to Syrian authorities without a lawyer.  He went on a hunger strike as a form of protest from May 17 to June 4, 2006. He also joined other prisoners in their hunger strikes for a few days in September 2006.

 

Prior to his arrest, Anwar al-Bunni was to be designated the head of a European Union Centre for Human Rights Training, the first in the country. The Centre's opening was blocked by the authorities.

 

In November 2006, the Law Society sent letters to the authorities of the Republic of Syria.

 

In 2008, the Law Society reviewed further information about the case. Mr. Anwar al-Bunni was executing his five years prison sentence. His trial has been labelled unfair, as he did not get the right to talk to his lawyer without restriction. During a body inspection, a draft of a letter that he had produced during his first trial was found on him. In this letter, he criticized the Minister of Social Affairs who originated his arrest and condemnation, as well as the association of support to the prisoners. This letter was considered a defamation offence by the Public Prosecutor, who sued him before the Military Court, in application of Law 376 from the Penal Code. Mr. al-Bunni incurs a maximum sentence of three months' imprisonment.

 

At his hearing on December 13, 2007, the defence lawyers insisted on the fact that this letter could not constitute the evidence of an offence, because it had already been presented as a mean of defence before the Criminal Court. It was also argued that the General Law on Amnesty, adopted on January 28, 2006, should prevent such a proceeding. Mr. al-Bunni's lawyers consequently asked for his acquittal. The verdict was postponed. In February 2008, the Law Society sent further letters of intervention to Syrian authorities.

 

Letter of Intervention