The Syrian Network for Human Rights (a network of nine Syrian and Kurdish rights organizations launched last month) said in a statement released yesterday that Anwar al-Bunni and a number of the prisoners of conscience arrested recently were suffering health problems. (Arabic. Al-Mustaqbal, 5/30/06).
The statement added "Bunni runs the risk of a total health collapse due to the hunger strike he has been on to protest his unjust detention. In addition to Bunni, the statement mentioned the case of Dr. Aref Dalilah, in prison since 2001, who suffers from heart problems and activists Mahmoud Sarem and Mohammed Ghanem who were arrested a few months ago for their involvement in human rights and civil society work.
Reports have said that Bunni's state is now critical, and his physical appearance has deteriorated markedly, as he is turning pale and has dark circles around his eyes. His heart condition is also said to have suffered (Arabic. Hurriyat, via "Free Syria," 5/28/06). The Follow-Up Committee for the Cases of Detainees and Exiles warned the Syrian authorities in a statement that Bunni's life is now in danger. It held the Syrian government fully responsible for any harm that may befall him and for the beating and abuse he suffered on the first day of his detention.
Bunni's brother Akram recently visited him in prison and told Ferry Biedermann of the Financial Times, "You would not recognise him now. He is pale and even skinnier than usual." Akram has not been able to convince his brother to give up the hunger strike. Akram went on to say that he is convinced that the Beirut-Damascus statement was just a pretext for the government to arrest his brother. The week before, Anwar had been stripped of his licence to practise law and in March the authorities closed down his recently opened human rights centre that was largely funded by the EU. (FT, 5/29/06).
The prison authorities have been complicating visits to Bunni. Last week (5/23), they denied a visit from Bunni's family as well as a defense lawyer and a delegation from the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights, who also wanted to visit two other Beirut-Damascus Declaration (BDD) detainees, Mahmoud Mer'i and Khalil Hussein. (Arabic. Arab Network for Human Rights Information, 5/23/06).
Lawyer Khalil Maatouq of the National Organization for Human Rights told Elaph that now all visits must have the approval of the First Attorney General in Damascus. He added that the prison administration has denied the detainees' lawyers from visiting them four times in a row. On Sunday, visits were denied to Michel Kilo, as well as to Bunni and Mer'i. (Arabic. 5/28/06).
Meanwhile, Fateh Jamous' daughter was able to visit him on Sunday, but told Elaph that he is still sleeping on the cell floor and is still being denied a bed and covers.
A delegation of the Lebanese signatories to the BDD visited the UN headquarters in Beirut and submitted a letter to the UN Secretary General urging him to interfere by "taking all the necessary and urgent steps to protect the lives of the Syrian signatories" in order for them to be set free "immediately, without any restrictions or financial punishments or burdens." They called on Annan to deal with the behavior of the Syrian authorities as he sees fit in accordance with the charter of the United Nations. (Arabic. "Free Syria," 5/28/06).
The National Salvation Front had also written to Kofi Annan urging him to interfere in order to end the Syrian regime's repressive policies. (Arabic. LBCI News, 5/19/06).