SYRIA: The usual suspects
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It seems that the Syrian government is clamping down again on homegrown dissidents.
On Monday, Syrian authorities arrested a leading opposition figure, Riad Seif, hours after putting 10 other critics of the ruling Baath Party on trial, according to international human rights groups.
The link between the detained opposition figures is a high-profile political meeting they all attended at Seif’s residence in Damascus in December.
We caught up with Ausama Monajed, a London-based Syrian dissident and member of an opposition group, for a phone interview:
It is obvious that the regime wants to eliminate any seed of democracy that could grow and endanger it. But with international pressure and growing local support, the opposition cannot be easily shut.
Seif and the 10 other dissidents face years-long jail sentences for charges such as ‘weakening the national spirit and awakening racism and sectarianism,’ and ‘spreading false information,’ and ‘involvement in a secret organization.’
Monajed described these charges as ‘outrageously unfounded, tailor-made accusations.’
Seif has already served five years in prison for his political activities. He recently formed an umbrella opposition group, called the Damascus Declaration National Council ,to lead the way ‘peacefully’ for democracy in Syria.
Prying open a small window of hope for democratic reforms in Syria, the group was celebrated for encompassing an unprecedentedly large range of political entities, including leftists, liberals, conservatives, Kurds and moderate Islamists.
Apparently the Syrian government is not yet ready to tolerate such opposition.
The Movement for Justice and Development, a vocal opposition group with representatives in Syria and Britain, said that the arrests were widely seen as ‘an attempt by the Syrian regime to forestall the development of a strong pro-democracy movement in the country.’
The arrests also provoked the indignation of Human Rights organizations. The U.S.-based Freedom House accused the Syrian government, in a press statement released yesterday, of ‘trying to conjure up some legal fiction to mask its blatant repression of any independent expression.’
— Raed Rafei in Beirut