The crackdown against the Syrian signatories of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration continues. Elaph reported that on Sunday, the Syrian security forces summoned Dr. Hazem Nahar, a member of the Committees for the Revival of Civil Society in Syria (CRCSS), and held him for interrogation, without food or water, from 11AM to 10PM, at which time he was let go (Arabic. 5/28/06).
Nahar told Elaph, "the security forces conducted an official interrogation about the Beirut-Damascus Declaration, and they had one demand, which is for me to pull my name from the Declaration. My reply was negative, and that I was convinced by the Declaration, which is why I signed it, and I don't find anything in it that harms Syria or Lebanon." Nahar is banned from travelling, and emailed his signature to the Declaration.
Nahar added that the authorities focused also on the timing of the Declaration (coinciding with UN resolution 1680) and whether the anti-Assad "March 14" coalition and Lebanese MPs Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblat were behind it. According to Nahar, the security forces believed that the timing of the Declaration was planned to be in harmony with UNSCR 1680 against Syria.
Writer Fayez Sarah, also a member of the CRCSS, told Elaph that the summoning and detention of Nahar is a dangerous indication that the campaign against activists will continue at a time when it was hoped that it would end and the prisoners would be set free.
Elaph cited leaks that mere signatories might be set free, but those who helped prepare and formulate the Declaration will remain in jail.
In related news, ME Transparent published a petition, signed by 91 intellectuals from the Suwayda district in Syria, supporting the Beirut-Damascus Declaration and condeming the arrests of some of its signatories. (Arabic. 5/25/06).
Another incident of harrassment of human rights activists was the sentencing of Haitham Maleh, former president of the Committee for Human Rights in Syria, to 10 days in prison for "defaming a public official." (Arabic. ME Transparent, 5/26/06). Maleh was also under a travel ban.
Ferry Biedermann of the Financial Times had spoken to Maleh and wrote in a piece published yesterday, "Mr Maleh, like many other observers of the situation in Syria, speculates that the government is cracking down on dissidents, first of all because it feels that it now has an opportunity to do so while the international priorities lie elsewhere - notably Iran and Iraq. And also, says Mr Maleh, because the government is worried about what the report of the UN investigation into the Hariri assassination will bring. Interim reports have implicated senior Syrian intelligence officials. Another report is due on June 15 and the government may wish to silence domestic critics before publication." (FT, 5/29/06).