Kamal al-Labwani's Trial
I have received three notes from Maureen Thomas of England, who has been a tireless defender and advocate of Kamal al-Labwani's. You may remember that Kamal was one of the Damascus Spring members who were arrested in 2001. Last year he flew to Washington, where he met with US officials to speak about opposition matters. On his return to Syria he was arrested. He gained particular notoriety because President Bush mentioned his arrest in a speech and asked for his release by name. This was the first time the US had given particular attention to a member of the Syrian opposition. Labwani was an odd choice for such attention. He was not well known in Syria and had not made a prominent name for himself among members of the Syrian opposition. His arrest went unnoticed by most Syrians as did President Bush's remarks.
The episode demonstrated how little Washington understands about Syria's internal affairs and how much it must learn before it can effectively exploit the Syrian opposition to pressure President Bashar al-Asad.
Unfortunately, Kamal al-Labwani is paying for the terrible state of affairs between the two countries. One can only hope that his sacrifices will pay off someday.
Here are Maureen's notes.
The first is from May 6, 2006: Maureen wrote:
Dear Prof. Landis,The second note came on May 10, 2006
I expect you know the current situation regarding my dear friend Dr Kamal al-Labwani: that he has now been formally charged with "inciting a foreign nation to occupy Syria" and that he faces life imprisonment or execution if any attack on Syria does take place. This is bitterly ironic because, all the time he was in UK, Europe and US last year, he told everyone who would listen to him that any attack or sanctions imposed on Syria would be totally wrong because it would be the ordinary people who would suffer and they had endured enough hardship. No date has been set for his trial.
Maureen Thomas (Basildon, England)
Dear Professor Landis,The last note came today - May 14, 2006
I copy below a message received from Dr Kamal al-Labwani's family very late on Wednesday night.
"......... I have very bad news to tell you about.
The trial will start tomorrow and it will be the first session. It will be at nine o’clock in the morning (7 am British Summer Time). It is not in public. It is like an investigation: the judge will ask him about the things he talked about (while he was in Europe and US last year) and he will face him with the new charge, and they will say when the second session is.
This time is the hardest time, and he needs now support and pressures to release him more than any other time.
Please, if you can, help us by talking about his case and the unfair charges against him in public like on channels. And try to get media cover for his trial and the unfair charges and ask the members of European Parliament and the British Parliament which our father met when he was in the UK and Europe to be witnesses on media and deny the charge because they heard his opinion and they know it is not true.
And please maybe you as Amnesty International members which our father lived with for more than one month and know him and his ideas very well, say that it is not true.
These things will help our father and it will be a very good thing to do specially at this time. Making public his case or leading the Amnesty press release campaigns specially on the media or channels will move the public opinion against the authority inside and outside Syria.
Any way thank you very much. Maybe we are pushing you too hard but please do what you can do.
Sorry for these lots of requests and with our best wishes
Dear Prof. Landis,
This afternoon I received the following e-mail from Kamal's family, and his wife and daughter have just telephoned me to make sure I got the message and that I will do everything I can to publicise the fact of the hearing.
Maureen ThomasThe date for the next session of our father’s trial is on the 22nd of this month, so it is not this Monday it is the next Monday. We hope that members from the European Commission in Damascus and members from European Embassies in Damascus will attend the hearing.
Thank you a lot and is there any new news ?
From Kamal's family