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Beirut, June 18, 2010

Press release

The Syrian authorities release two of the Damascus Declaration group


leaders, while keeping Al-Abdullah in custody

Damascus – SKeyes Special Report

On Thursday, 17/6/2010, the Syrian authorities released Walid al-Bunni and Yasser al-
„Iti, the two leaders in the Damascus Declaration dissident group, after their sentences
(two and a half years) were completed. This is while Ali al-Abdullah was kept in custody
on another charge, made against him two months before he completed his sentence.
A lawyer and human rights activist in Damascus told SKeyes that “the release of al-
Bunni and al-„Iti was carried out by the State Security branch in Damascus. The same
branch then referred al-Abdullah to the Political Security branch from whence he was
placed in custody again at the Damascus Central Prison in Adra.” He also added that “a
lawsuit was brought before the military judiciary in Damascus against al-Abdullah, in
accordance with Article 286 of the Penal Code (“conveying false news that could
debilitate the nation‟s morale”), and article 278 (“the crime of taking actions or writing
material or speeches that the government did not approve, and which subsequently
subjected Syria to the danger of hostile actions, damaged its relations with a foreign
country, or subjected Syrian citizens to reprisals against them or against their
properties”), all against the backdrop of statements al-Abdullah had made within prison”.
In a previous interview conducted by SKeyes with the former prisoner Akram al-Bunni,
who was incarcerated against the backdrop of his affiliation with the Damascus
Declaration group, and who was released on 13/6/2010, he said that “Al-Abdullah is
supposed to be released on 17/6/2010.” He also pointed out that “no arrest warrant was
issued against him. However, he might be referred to a military court because of the
nature of the case filed against him while he is in prison”.
Al-Nidaa, the official website of the Damascus Declaration, had earlier mentioned that
Al-Abdullah was referred to the State Security Court two months before the end of his
sentence, against the background of the statements he made more than a year ago, when
he was being detained at the Damascus Central Prison in Adra.
From his detention place, al-Abdullah described the Lebanese elections as a „democratic
wedding‟, and called on the Syrians to “study this experience in order to raise awareness
regarding democracy in Syria”, in a statement he made to the Italian news agency AKI.
In another statement regarding the Iranian elections, al-Abdullah also said that “the
demonstrations of the Iranian people took place in response to the vote rigging”, and
accused the Iranian regime of “manipulating the political choices of the Iranians” noting
that these demonstrations “have invalidated the regime‟s credibility and its claims”.

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org
Ali al-Abdullah is a writer and journalist from Deir el-Zour. He was formerly imprisoned
several times against the background of his activism in public affairs. He was elected as
member in the Presidium of the Damascus Declaration. He was arrested on 17/12/2007.
Walid al-Bunni is a doctor from Tel Manin. He is a former prisoner who was incarcerated
against the backdrop of his role in launching the „Damascus Spring‟. He was elected as
member in the Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration. He was arrested on 17/12/2007.
Yasser al-„Iti is a poet and academician from Damascus. He is a lecturer of Human
Development and has many published works. He was elected as member in the
Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration. He was arrested on 17/12/2007.Along with all
members of the declaration, he was sentenced to two years and a half in prison on
charges of “weakening the national sentiment and conveying false news”.
The Damascus Declaration is a dissident group that calls for peaceful national democratic
change in Syria. This prompted the Syrian authorities to wage a campaign of arrests
against most of the group‟s members. The First Criminal Court in Damascus decided on
29/10/2008 to convict the detainees of two counts of “weakening the national sentiment
and conveying false news”, and to sentence them to two years and a half of provisional
imprisonment.
Of these members, Akram al-Bunni, Ahmad Tohme, Jaber al-Shufi, Fida Hourani, Walid
al-Bunni and Yasser al-„Iti were released, while the rest of the detainees are to be
released respectively, according to the date of their arrest.
The SKeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom – a part of the Samir Kassir
Foundation-, denounces the referral of the writer and political activist Ali al-Abdullah to
the military judiciary after the completion of his sentence, and deplores the deliberate
retribution in dealing with human rights activist and civil society activists, and any
political activities aimed at taking society further into democracy, pluralism and civil
society in Syria.

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org