On October 19, reports came out that Beirut-Damascus Declaration (BDD) signatory, Michel Kilo, would be released on bail, leaving Anwar al-Bunni and Ali Shehabi as the last two signatories still in detention. (Arabic. AKI, 10/19/06). Bunni is reportedly facing charges of contacting enemy sides and belonging to an organization of an international character without government permission, as well as disseminating false news. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/9/06).
However, it quickly became apparent that Kilo was not going to be released. His family confirmed that despite the judge's signature on the release request and the payment of the bail, Kilo remained in jail. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/20/06). Rumors began circulating that the Syrian authorities would not allow Kilo's release. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/21/06). It then came out that there was clear political interference in the judicial order. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/21/06). One report claimed that, based on information from the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, "a prominent figure from the first rank of the Syrian regime" flagrantly interfered in order to prevent Kilo's release. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/22/06).
It is worth noting that Kilo's lawsuit against a regime-hired pen (Arabic. Elaph, 8/26/06), who accused him of receiving money and operational directions from an anti-Syrian Lebanese Minister to support terrorist acts in Syria (Arabic. AKI, 7/25/06), was also rejected after alleged interference from the office of Maher Assad, the President's brother, who is close to the journalist in question. (Arabic. Levant News, 9/29/06).
Political interference soon became manifest when additional, more serious charges, including "exposing Syria to the danger of hostile acts," were brought against Kilo and three recently-released (Arabic. Levant News, 9/25/06) BDD signatories, Mahmoud Issa, Khalil Hussein, and Suleiman al-Shammar. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/22/06). An order went out to rearrest them and detain them in the Adra prison.
The following day, the security forces raided Mahmoud Issa's house and re-arrested him. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/23/06).
In response, Kilo, Bunni, and Kamal Labwani launched a protest hunger strike which ended on 11/4. (AFP, 10/30/06). Meanwhile, Syrian and international human rights organizations strongly attacked the Syrian judiciary over the Kilo fiasco calling it "a judicial scandal." (Arabic. AKI, 10/25/06). The Kilo affair was covered by Reporters Sans Frontieres. (French. 11/2/06).
A German-based opposition group, The Party of Modernity and Democracy for Syria, declared it was holding a sit-in and a hunger strike of its own in solidarity with the Syrian detainees. (Arabic. AKI, 10/31/06). The hunger strike ended yesterday.
In related news, another recently-arrested BDD signatory, Ali Shehabi, was also denied release. (Arabic. Elaph, 10/22/06).