[Editor's note: Due to the latest crisis in Lebanon and Israel, posting on The Syria Monitor has taken a temporary back seat. Regular posting will resume as soon as possible. Sorry for the inconvenience and the long absence. In the meantime, here is a quick round-up of some recent developments. For commentary on the Lebanon crisis, please visit Across the Bay.]
7/16 - A Judge has ordered the release of four of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration (BDD) detainees: Mahmoud Mer'i, Ghaleb Amer, Safwan Tayfour, and Nidal Darwish, after posting bail (Arabic. Elaph, 7/16/06). According to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR), upon further interrogation, they claimed to have signed on to a different draft declaration than the one that was ultimately released as the BDD, and reportedly adding that they rejected the content of the final version. As for the charges of "inciting sectarian strife," Qurabi said that the four detainees said that they were committed to the unity of Syria and the rule of the Syrian constitution, rejecting foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
7/17 - The four released BDD detainees deny a statement that was circulated -- apparently by the security forces (Arabic. Elaph, 7/14/06) -- which claimed that the four released detainees were going to sue fellow detained activists Michel Kilo and Anwar Bunni for allegedly involving them in signing the BDD (Arabic. Elaph, 7/17/06). They did confirm their maltreatment in prison.
Ammar Qurabi of the NOHR told Elaph that the release was not because of a deal with the security forces, as the detainees will still be facing trial. The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) issued a statement calling on the authorities to stop pressuring and blackmailing detainees to get them to change their positions, and asked for the release of all the BDD detainees and all prisoners of opinion and conscience. (Arabic. SHRC, 7/16/06).
7/19 - The four detainees publish an open letter explaining their release and dispelling all rumors about their alleged deals with the security services and denying that they withdrew their signature from the BDD. They also stressed their commitment to freedom of expression and opinion and called for the release of their fellow detainees. They did not address or validate Ammar Qurabi's claim (see above) about them signing a different version of the BDD. (Arabic. ME Transparent, 7/19/06).