The World Cup of Dissent Decimation
Arab states are in competition with one another to see who can smack down their opposition the hardest. It is the World Cup of dissent decimation. This free for all is taking place as a direct result of the decline in US authority brought on by events in Iraq and Iran. Washington must husband its remaining political capital to spend on its upcoming struggle with Iran. It cannot afford to alienate Arab governments when it may well need their support in the UN and in the court of international opinion. During 2005, when Washington power was still reverberating and Bush was in the blush of his new term, Arab governments did the liberalization hokey pokey to placate Washington's transformation-of-the-Middle-East chest thumping. Now that the Bush administration is a lame duck, the mice have come out to play and the heroes of the Karaguz shadow play are being whacked right and left.
Syria continues to intimidate its opposition. Prime Minister Otri fired 17 state employees for signing a petition calling for the release of the 10 human rights activists who were arrested last month.
Just to make it clear to all government employees that they had better watch their step, he issued a circular explaining that the 17 state employees from various ministries (electricity, health, oil, information and agriculture) "have been dismissed from their posts," the Association of Human Rights in Syria said in a statement.
But don't get your hopes up for Syria to make the World Cup play offs. Egypt and Jordan are playing for keeps and sport excellent opposition repression teams. They are determined not to let Syria squash decent alone. Jordan has slapped five of its most prominent journalists in jail for reporting on things the government disapproves of. Several parliamentary members have also been jailed. You can read about it on Sasa's informative"Syria News Wire."
Egypt has also been sweeping the boards. Let's not talk about the opposition arrests or beating up judges.
Mona Eltahawy” - one of my favorite Arab journalists, who writes for As-Sharq al-Awsat, has been fired. Yes, fired, because she criticized her very own Egyptian government over its crackdown of the opposition. The Egyptian government lobbied the Saudi Gov. to squeeze Asharq al-Awsat, the London-based, Saudi-owned newspaper, to dump her. It worked. She was dismissed. Mona has an excellent article in the Herald Tribune today explaining just how easy it is to get fired from "independent" Arab papers. She explains how the "red lines" work for the different papers and for writing in Arabic versus English.
But let's not talk about Jordan and Egypt's bad behavior. This is "Syria Comment."
Kamal Lubwani, the opposition leader arrested at the beginning of the year after a visit to the US where he met with high officials in the White House, is in court. He is being charged with establishing contacts with a foreign country with the aim of instigating an attack against Syria, a crime punishable by death.
The public prosecutor claims Labwani's call for increasing pressure on Syria is tantamount to contacts with a hostile state and instigation of attack against Damascus, which are punishable under articles 264 and 287 of the penal code.
Abdelhalim Khaddam, the ex-VP and leader of the National Salvation Front, is also having trouble with the Syrian courts, which are gunning to separate him from his considerable assets. The following message was sent around by Khaddam's lawyer about his unjust treatment in Syria: (Thank you Sophia Hoffmann)
The lawyer Farid Al-Dib declares to the whole world and to all the organizations concerned the following facts:It should be noted that Khaddam vigorously denies that he engaged in corrupt practice. In the BBC Hardtalk interview with Khaddam last week, he explains that he worked as a lawyer to buy his lovely house on Rue Foche.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance of Syria deposited a civil complaint against Mr. Abdelhalim Khaddam and his family, that consist, of 24 people (his wife, his sons and their wives, his daughter and her husband, and all his descendants) in order to confiscate their assets.
The first meeting of the court was held on Monday April 24, 2006. The Khaddam family was asked to appear before the magistrates' court in Banias. Nevertheless, Mr. Khaddam and his family did not receive any convocation to attend the court. They were informed by the press (Techrine newspaper) 20 the Mars 2006. Following this complaint, Mr. Abdelhalim Khaddam and his family have asked various Syrian lawyers for their defense. The latter received pressures and threats in order to refuse such nomination. Consequently, the plenary meeting thus was deferred to Monday June 12, 2006.
Consequently, I was named as a defense lawyer by Mr. Khaddam to defend his rights and his family rights and I accepted. The Khaddam family forwarded to me of the official procreations in order to be able to officially represent them in front of the Syrian courts. Decree 10 of the law concerning the order of Syrian lawyers gives all Arab lawyers the authorization to defend the interests of the individuals in front of the Syrian courts provided that they receive the preliminary authorization on behalf of the president of Syrian lawyers. I addressed a letter on June 6,
2006 to Mr. President of Egyptian lawyers and to Mr. President of the union of Arab lawyers asking them to inform the President of Syrian lawyers so that I can defend my customers Mr. Khaddam and his family. The president of Egyptian lawyers addressed this same day (June 6, 2006) a letter to Mr. President of Syrian lawyers (Walid Altech). A colleague who works in my office personally carried this letter to Mr. Wealid Altech.
In spite of the awareness by Mr. Altech of the procreations of my customers and the reception of the copies of those, he did not give an authorization and posed impossible conditions such as for example obliging me to appear in person in his office and the need for appointing a Syrian lawyer to assist me with the defense of the Khaddam family. He added that even if these conditions are carried out, the authorization will not be guaranteed. Consequently my colleague returned from Damas empty handed.
In light off the preceding facts, Mr. Khaddam were denied of his rights to obtain a lawyer; which is against the International Conventions, and against the Syrian constitution and the Syrian laws. That means that the complaints emitted against Mr. Khaddam and his family is null and without any avenue. Consequently, I ask all the organizations concerned throughout the world to intervene to protect the right to defend Mr. Khaddam and his family.
STEPHEN SACKUR - You want to be the leader of this opposition movement. So the people of Syria have the right to know where you got your wealth from if not from Mr Hariri.
ABDUL HALIM KHADDAM - I have no fortune. I have four sons. The youngest started working 20 years ago. I started in 1958. I worked as a lawyer for a long time. I come from a family that owns land and assets. My sons are in employment. Some are in the Gulf States, others in Syria.
The youngest has worked for 20 years and the eldest for half a century. Obviously they are able to enjoy a comfortable and honourable life. Their economic involvement is not what others imagine it to be. One is in a partnership running a canned meat factory. The other owns a shop...