In an unprecedented move, the Syrian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has declared before the criminal court its intention to criminalize activist lawyer Anwar Bunni and then to present the ruling, once it comes out, to the Ministry of the Interior in order to strip Bunni of his citizenship, according to reports in AKI (Arabic, 2/19/07) and Elaph (Arabic, 2/18/07).
The Ministry, which called for the maximum sentence, also demanded compensation for all the sums received by Bunni from the EU Commission, as director of the (partially EU-funded) center for human rights which he opened in Syria and which the Syrian authorities shut down a week after its opening.
This took place in his trial session yesterday (Sunday, 2/18), which was attended by Western diplomats as well as activists and lawyers. He was charged with "spreading false news that weaken the spirit of the nation." His trial was postponed until March 11.
Bunni has been detained since May 2006 for signing the Beirut-Damascus Declaration and for his numerous statements to the media regarding human rights violations in Syria.
Bunni (along with other prisoners of opinion) was repeatedly abused in prison, as he was placed in the criminal ward and assaulted by common criminals, in the presence of the prison guards and with the knowledge of the prison administration, and at times even beaten by prison guards.
According to a 1967 decree, a citizen could be stripped of citizenship, following a justified proposal by a minister, if, e.g., s/he was in the service of a foreign state, or if s/he held activities for a country at war with Syria.
This measure is in line with the position set by Bashar Assad against Bunni and Michel Kilo. In various interviews, (Spanish. El Pais, 10/1/06) Assad has repeatedly declared that there were no political prisoners, only criminals who have broken the law and collaborated with Syria's enemies.