The Associated Press reports that prominent Syrian writer and activist Michel Kilo was detained Sunday days after he signed a petition calling on the regime to correct its relations with Lebanon.
Kilo's daughter, Shaza, told AP that her father was summoned by the security police at noon on Sunday and did not return home.
Kilo is a well-know political commentator whose articles have been regularly featured in the anti-Asad leading Lebanese daily, An-Nahar, among others.
Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR) said he believes the arrest has to do with Kilo's signing a joint statement last week, along with 274 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals (Arabic. Elaph, 5/15/06). The rather moderate statement did call for a radical correction of Syrian-Lebanese relations "starting with a final Syrian recognition of Lebanon's independence, as well as border demarcation and diplomatic exchange between the two countries." (Arabic. ME Transparent, 5/11/06). The statement coincided with a draft UN Security Council resolution sponsored by the US, France, and Britain, calling on Syria to do just that.
It also condemned "political assassination as a criminal way of dealing with opposition and of solving political disputes." Moreover, it stressed "the need to facilitate the work of the international investigation committee in order to uncover those responsible for incitement, organization, and execution in the crime of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and his companions, as well as the other crimes," calling for their punishment according to international law. Furthermore, it called for the release of all Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons, and asked the Syrian authorities to reveal the fate of missing persons.
Kilo is expected to be referred to court, as has been done recently with political detainees like Fateh Jamous, Ali Abdallah and his sons, and Muhammad Ghanem and others.
The NOHR issued a statement condemning Kilo's arrest and considered it "shocking, especially since Kilo represents political moderation in Syria." It called for his immediate release.
Lebanese Civil Society group "Hayya Bina," issued a statement noting the timing of the arrest on the eve of the one-year memorial of the assassination of Lebanese journalist Samir Qassir, who had strong ties with members of the Syrian opposition, and encouraged them to publish their writings in An-Nahar where he worked. Qassir's assassination, the statement said, "was a result of his insistence on the unity of the democratic struggle in Lebanon and Syria."
"Michel Kilo's arrest, aside from the coincidence in its timing, confirms the view held by Qassir that there could be no equal relation between Lebanon and Syria so long as the deadly contrast in the nature of their respective systems of government persisted," it said.