Document - Syria: Prisoner of conscience, Riad Seif

PUBLICAI Index: MDE 24/029/2001


UA 226/01Prisoner of Conscience7 September 2001


SYRIARiad Seif (m), Parliamentarian, Age 54



Riad Seif, an independent member of the Syrian National Assembly (Parliament) was arrested on 6 September, one day after hosting a political seminar at his house in the outskirts of Damascus. Amnesty International considers Riad Seif to be a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his opinions and peaceful opposition activities.


Between 400 and 500 people reportedly attended the seminar organized by Riad Seif and hosted by the National Dialogue Forum, during which the guest speaker Professor Burhan Ghaliun, called for political reform and democratic elections. According to an official spokesperson, Riad Seif was prosecuted following a “special permission” from the National Assembly which removed his parliamentary immunity. Syrian press reports state that a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, but it is not known what he has been charged with.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION


Riad Seif is a leader and organizer of the National Dialogue Forum (a group within the emerging civil society movement in Syria) and the second member of parliament to be arrested in the last four weeks. Mamun al-Homsi was arrested on 9 August, two days after he began a hunger strike in protest at official corruption and the massive powers wielded by the security forces.

(See UA 205/01, 10 August 2001, MDE 24/026/2001)


Another prominent opposition figure Riad al-Turk was detained last week, three years after being released from prison, where he was held as a prisoner of conscience from 1980 to 1998 because of his opposition to the Syrian government. (See UA 217/01, 3 September 2001, MDE 24/027/2001)


The Syrian authorities had imposed a number of restrictions on discussion forums and activities of civil society groups in February 2001.


RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Arabic, English, French or your own language:

- calling for Riad Seif to be released immediately and unconditionally, as a prisoner of conscience;

- seeking assurances that he is being well treated in custody and not tortured or ill-treated;

- urging the authorities to ensure that he is allowed immediate access to his family, lawyer and any medical care he needs.



APPEALS TO:

His Excellency

President Bashar al-Assad

Presidential Palace

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams:President al-Assad, Damascus, Syria

Telexes:419160 prespl sy

Salutation:Your Excellency



His Excellency

Nabil al-Khatib

Ministry of Justice

Al-Nasr Street

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams:Justice Minister, Damascus, Syria

Fax: + 963 11 224 6250

Salutation:Your Excellency



His Excellency

Dr Muhammad Harba

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of the Interior

Merjeh Circle

Damascus

Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams:Interior Minister, Damascus, Syria

Faxes:+ 963 11 222 3428

Telexes:411016 AFIRS SY

Salutation:Your Excellency


COPIES TO:

His Excellency

Nasser Qaddur

State Minister for Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Al-Rashid Street

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Fax: + 963 11 332 0686

Salutation:Your Excellency


and to diplomatic representatives of Syria accredited to your country.


PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 19 October 2001.


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