Seven peaceful Syrian political activists have been sentenced to jail after an unfair trial in Damascus.
The seven advocates for political reform were tried before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose procedures fail to satisfy international fair trial standards and from which there is no right of appeal.
Maher Isber Ibrahim (26), Tareq al-Ghorani, Hussam Ali Mulhim, Diab Siriyeh, 'Omar 'Ali al'Abdullah (all 22), 'Allam Fakhour (29) and Ayham Saqr (31) – were all convicted of: "Taking action or making a written statement or speech which could endanger the State or harm its relationship with a foreign country, or expose it to the risk of hostile action".
Maher Isber Ibrahim and Tareq al-Ghorani were also convicted of "broadcasting of false news". On 17 June 2007, they received seven-year prison sentences. Their five co-accused, all students except Ayham Saqr, who works in a beauty salon, received five-year terms. An eighth man, 'Ali Nizar 'Ali, was released under an amnesty on 28 December 2006.
The seven are believed to have been arrested and tried because of their involvement in developing a youth discussion group, as well as for publishing pro-democracy articles on the internet. They were arrested by Air Force Intelligence (AFI) officials between 26 January and 18 March 2006, then reportedly detained in solitary confinement until the end of April 2006.
In November 2006, all seven defendants denied the charges when they first appeared in court. They also renounced "confessions" that they alleged had been extracted from them under torture and duress while they were held in incommunicado detention. However, the court failed to undertake any investigation and accepted the contested "confessions" as evidence against the defendants.
During the trial, they were denied access to their lawyers except for in brief meetings. In one of the trial sessions, on 15 April, most lawyers were prevented from meeting the defendants, who were also denied access to their relatives.
Amnesty International is greatly concerned by the imprisonment of these peaceful advocates of political reform. The organization considers all seven to be prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.