Eight Syria activists before military court: lawyer

AFP , Sunday 22 Apr 2012

Charged with organising pro-democracy protests, eight Syrian activists will face military trials

Syrian woman blogger Razan Ghazzawi was among eight Syrian activists arrested in February to be charged and brought before a military court, human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni said on Sunday.

"The eight activists will face military justice for publishing and distributing forbidden tracts under Clause 148 of the military penal code," Bunni said, adding that if convicted they could be jailed for up to five years.

He said they appeared in court on Saturday.

The eight were among around 15 activists arrested by the security services in Damascus on February 16 at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, headed by journalist Mazen Darwish who was among those detained.

"This is a case of charges being prepared in advance against peaceful activists," said Bunni, director of the Centre for Legal Research and Studies.

"The regime is doing everything it can to gag the peaceful protest movement by denying it freedom of expression."

He demanded "the immediate release of the thousands of peaceful activists who are being detained, an end to the campaign of repression, assassinations and detentions, and the withdrawal from towns of all military armour."

Bunni also reported the interrogation in Homs on Sunday of Yara Shammas, the daughter of a lawyer who defends several opposition members, and said she was charged with "spreading lies" and "belonging to a secret organisation."

Her father Michel told AFP Shammas and her group were detained in a swoop on a cafe in Damascus on March 7.

Also on Sunday, security forces were reported to have arrested four people during a sit-in in Damascus organised by around 50 students carrying placards saying "Stop the killing."

The United Nations says that well over 9,000 Syrians have been killed since democracy protests erupted in March 2011, while monitors put the figure at more than 11,000.

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