AKI reported that human rights sources in Syria have confirmed that activist Anwar al-Bunni has been on a hunger strike since his arrest last Wednesday despite efforts by fellow activists to dissuade him (Arabic. 5/22/06). Bunni's lawyers have also confirmed that he has been subjected to beatings along with two other detainees held after signing a joint declaration (the "Beirut-Damascus Declaration") with Lebanese intellectuals. Amnesty International named Nidal Darwish as one of those who were beaten during interrogation. Darwish was arrested last Tuesday along with Mahmoud Mer'i, in the ongoing campaign against the signatories of the declaration (Arabic. ME Transparent, 5/17/06).
Levant News also reported that on Monday, a group of lawyers and former detainees paid a visit to the ten detainees who are signatories to the Beirut-Damascus Declaration (BDD), as well as to Ali Abdallah and his son Muhammad, Fateh Jamous and Kamal Labwani, all of whom are being held at the Adra prison near Damascus (Arabic. 5/23/06). The detainees spoke of their harsh conditions, where they are being placed with criminal prisoners, and not political ones, yet they are being denied the privileges afforded even to criminal prisoners.
They told the lawyers that they have no beds, mattresses, or blankets and have been sleeping on the cell floor. Furthermore, they asserted that other prisoners have been instructed not to offer or even sell them anything, be it blankets or any other necessities, and have even forbidden inmates from speaking to them under threat of retribution. One prisoner was said to have been thrown in solitary confinement for lending a blanket to Fateh Jamous, while another was threatened for exchanging greetings with him. Nevertheless, lawyers said their morale was very high. Earlier reports spoke of Ali Abdallah's son Muhammad being forced to sign false testimonies under duress (Arabic. Elaph, 5/15/06).
The detainees were also allowed to sit all together with the lawyers. However, Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights told Levant News, "it is clear that prison is now the only place where the opposition is allowed to meet."
The cases of the charged detained signatories to the BDD were added to that of Michel Kilo who was the first among them to be arrested. At first, Kilo was referred to the judiciary without knowing what the charges against him were (Arabic. AKI, 5/16/05). The charges were then revealed: "weakening nationalist sentiment" and "inciting sectarian conflict" as well as "undermining the state," "disseminating false news" and "defamation." Some of the charges could carry a life sentence. At the very least, he is facing a year according to a law that prohibits participation in any political or social grouping "of an international character" without permission, which carries a sentence of 3 months to 3 years (Arabic. Levant News, 5/17/06). The judge handling the case levelled the same charges against the remaining BDD detainees at their interrogation session (Arabic. An-Nahar via "Free Syria," 5/22/06). Ammar Qurabi was quoted as saying that his organization (NOHR) "would provide a large number of lawyers to defend these detainees which the organization considers prisoners of conscience."
Here are the names of the BDD detainees who have been charged: Ghaleb Ammar, Anwar al-Bunni, Nidal Darwish, Khalil Hussein, Mahmoud Issa, Michel Kilo, Muhammad Mahfoud, Mahmoud Mer'i, Suleiman al-Shammar, and Safwan Tayfour. On Saturday, another signatory, Fayez Sarah, was summoned for questioning (Arabic. Elaph, 5/20/06). Three others, Abbas Abbas, Khaled Khalifeh, and Kamal Sheikho, were released after being briefly detained (Asia News, 5/23/06).