The Syrian Human Rights Observatory reported in a press release that political prisoner Kamal Labwani was assaulted in the Adra prison where he is detained. (Arabic. Elaph, 11/4/06).
The statement said that Labwani was beaten and verbally abused by a criminal inmate at the behest of the security services. It added that Labwani filed a complaint which was ignored by the prison authorities.
Labwani's family confirmed the assault took place and held the prison authorities responsible. (Arabic. Levant News, 11/3/06). The family also reiterated its request to separate political prisoners from criminals. The prison authorities had placed Labwani in the violent crimes ward, and had placed Anwar Bunni in the robberies ward, while Michel Kilo and the recently re-arrested Mahmoud Issa are placed in the prostitution ward. This practice of placing political prisoners with criminals has been common. It was done, for instance, to Fateh Jamous who was also beaten by inmate thugs.
Human rights sources confirm that the authorities instruct criminals to attack political prisoners in order to pressure them and crush their spirits. (Arabic. TSDP, 11/3/06). It is often dubbed "torture by proxy." It is a practice also used outside prison, where thugs are sent out to beat up dissidents at rallies.
Bunni, Issa, Kilo and Labwani had launched a week-long hunger strike, which ended on 11/4, to protest rights violations in Syria, including continued political imprisonment, torture of detainees, subversion of the judiciary, and stifling of freedom of speech and opinion. (Arabic. Elaph, 11/4/06). The detainees said the assault on Labwani and the reversal of the judicial order to release Kilo cause them to worry about their situation and lives in prison. Yet they still called for unifying efforts to maintain pressure on the regime.
Labwani, who is being charged of contacting a foreign state in order to incite aggression against Syria, also penned a letter from prison defending himself and attacking authoritarian rule in Syria and calling for democratic change. (Arabic. ME Transparent, 11/1/06).
In another act of defiance, the detainees hailed the sentencing of Saddam Hussein as a precedent for holding dictators accountable in the Arab world, despite expressing reservation over the death penalty. (Arabic. Al-Mustaqbal, 11/7/06). Anwar Bunni told AKI that the sentencing marks the first time in the Arab world that a dictator was held accountable by the people for his crimes. He added, "it would not be the last." (Arabic. AKI, 11/7/06). He also told Reuters that this presented "the last chance for all to respect human rights before it was too late," in a direct jab against the Syrian regime. Similarly, Labwani was quoted as saying "these rulings confirm the nearness of the day when all [dictators] will be tried, no matter their rank, for the crimes they committed against their people."
An international tribunal is currently being set up to try suspects in the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other Lebanese politicians and journalists. The reports of the UN investigation have implicated the Syrian regime in the killings.