Dr. Kamal al-Labwani
Status: Political prisoner
A 49-year-old father of three, Dr. Kamal al-Labwani is a respected member of the Syrian political opposition. He is the founder of the Liberal Democratic Union in Syria, a non-violent political party that calls for democratic reforms. Having already served time in solitary confinement in a Syrian prison between 2001 and 2004 following his participation in the 'Damascus Spring,' Dr. Labwani was arrested a second time by authorities on November 8, 2005 at Damascus International Airport upon his return from a trip abroad.
Dr. Labwani has not been allowed regular access to a lawyer or free and unsupervised contact with his family, and has reportedly been abused in prison by guards and other prisoners. While he is allowed weekly visits with his family, these visits are supervised and the conversations are controlled by the guards. He is also separated from his family by two sets of bars.
Charges against him are illegitimate and include "plotting or scheming with a foreign country, or communicating with one, with the aim of causing it to attack Syria." This accusation has not been publicly supplemented with evidence by Syrian authorities, and indeed contradicts the very nature of Dr. Labwani's opinions. On several occasions he has voiced strong opposition to the idea that Syria should be invaded by external actors.
On July 16, 2006, Dr. Labwani announced to a security court:
The prosecutor has forbidden my lawyer from visiting me for the whole of last month. Eventually, after I threatened to boycott the Court sessions, only 3 days ago he allowed me to see a lawyer, but a retired police officer insisted on being present.
This is unlawful. The ex-policeman told me he had been instructed to be there. This is unlawful.
The tragedy of my homeland is to have no Law and therefore people have no immunity from injustice nor can they enjoy basic human rights.
I fear the prosecutor is under instructions to change the accusations with which I am charged from a civil offence to a criminal offence, without interrogating me about it. I also fear that this Court operates under these same instructions and not according to what is lawful and allows the exercise of freedom of conscience.
In order for this Court to be just and fair, I ask you to provide me with the complete file of my charges and for the prosecutor to show all the evidence to this Court. I ask to be allowed enough time to meet with my lawyer in private and for the pressure on my lawyer to cease. I ask for a chance to defend myself by cross-examining the witnesses and to show my own evidence. I ask for the following people to give their testimonies:
Friends and relatives of Dr. Labwani are worried for his health and mental situation because, according to reports, he has been in solitary confinement since March 19 2007 (date of his hearing) in a small, underground, rat-infested room with no lights, shoes, or washing facilities. He is allowed only small portions of food and water, and it is too cold for him to sleep at night.
It should also be noted that Dr. Labwani's transfer into solitary confinement should be understood as being a response to his appearance in court two days prior, where he and his lawyers delivered statements to the court. Dr. Labwani's attorney, Muhannad al-Hasani, was called to the Security Services for interrogation three times in the days immediately following his appearance in court to defend Dr. Labwani on March 19. It is believed that both the interrogations and the transfer into solitary confinement are retaliatory actions by the Syrian authorities meant to intimidate the prisoner and his attorney into further silence. Mr. Hasani's defense statement to the court is available below as an attachment in Arabic (if you are able to translate it into English, please do so and let us know so that we can post it).
On April 4, 2007, AELME.org received a copy of this letter regarding Dr. Labwani's deteriorating condition:
Our father’s situation is very bad now; he needs help now more than at any other time.
Yesterday they let us see him for just ten minutes. There was a police officer with us during the visit to listen to what we said.
He is still in the solitary cell. He looked very tired and yellow. He has lost about 10 kg in weight. He cannot eat properly because of the dirty smells that come from the toilet in his cell. The toilet is broken and full of sewage. His clothes are very dirty and he has not been able to wash with soap for fifteen days. They have not allowed him to take a bath. He is wearing a thin and dirty uniform.
His skin is red and bleeding. He has scabies and lice. Also the room is cold and no sunlight enters it.
We think he has been put in this cell because of his defence statement.
The next hearing is still due on the 10th April, and it will be the final judgement session.
The worst signals are that now, before the final session, they have changed all the judges in the case. We think they have changed the judge because they have prepared the verdict and want the judge just to read it. People say that this judge is weaker than the former one.
We are very worried now about our father’s health: we fear that he will catch a disease from this wet and dirty place. His beard and hair are very long now. They are trying to kill him slowly because they cannot do it fast.
On April 5, 2007, we received news that Dr. Labwani was released from solitary confinement, but continues to remain in prison. Please help spread awareness regarding Dr. Kamal al-Labwani's continued detainment in inhumane conditions by reading the links below, writing letters or making telephone calls to the contacts below, and reproducing this information on your website.
- Syrian prisoner of conscience: Kamal al Labwani - [Amnesty International]
- Syria: Rights activist detained after travel abroad - [Human Rights Watch]
- Syria: Kamal al-Labwani - [Amnesty International, UK]
- Urgent Call to release Dr. Kamal al-Labwani - [Syrian Human Rights Committee]
- Kamal al-Labwani Speech to The Court - [Syrians Refuse To Be Silenced]