Dr. Aref Dalila, former Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Economics at Damascus University, author for the banned weekly Al-Doumari and one of the “Damascus Spring” activists, was arrested in Damascus on 9 September 2001 for a lecture in which he reportedly called for democracy and transparency. He has been adopted by Amnesty International as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.
Dr. Dalila has spent the past few years in solitary confinement in the political section of the Adra prison in Damascus since his arrest in September 2001. He was sentenced in early 2002 to ten years of hard labour in prison by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in a trial which did not comply with international standards.
According to our sources, during his interrogation with a political security agent he was ill-treated, beaten and charged with trying to change the constitution by force through the weakening of national sentiment by distributing false news and causing racial and sectarian tensions. We believe that the reason behind his detention is his role in the group “Damascus Spring”, a political movement which was founded following the death of former president Hafez al-Asad in June 2000 and the inheritance of the presidency by his son Bashar al-Asad. At that time, Syrian intellectuals and general opposition started a peaceful movement to demand democracy and freedom in Syria. After a few months, Syrian authorities started a campaign against the civil society activists and arrested ten of them, most of whom have been released in the past few years. Only Dr. Dalila remains in detention.
Dr. Dalila is reported to be in poor health, suffering from both diabetes and heart disease. This condition has been further exacerbated by the poor living standards within the prison as well as exposure to harsh treatment. He started a hunger strike on 12 July 2005 in protest against his solitary confinement and ill-treatment. He recently underwent a heart surgery and may need another in the near future.
Please send appeals calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Aref Dalila, and expressing concern for his health, urging that he receives any necessary medical attention whilst in detention, to:
Appeals may be sent c/o the Syrian embassy:
His Excellency Sami M Khiyami
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic
8 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PH
Fax: 020 7235 4621
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/arefdalila/