European Parliament Urges Syria to Release Human Rights Lawyer Haytham Al-Maleh

European Parliament called for Syrian authorities to release human rights defender Haytham Al-Maleh. [:]Chairwoman Hautala noted in the debate that the resolution has not arrived a day too soon. “For a long time I have followed with concern the case of Mr Haytham Al-Maleh and we have no time to waste, he is 80-years old and I hear from his son that his father’s health is deteriorating,” Chairwoman underlined. Mr Al-Maleh suffers from arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems and Hautala said she has understood that he is deprived of access to medication.

Mr Haytham Al-Maleh was arbitrarily arrested by General Intelligence Service on 14 October 2009, held incommunicado and tried before the Second Military Court of Damascus despite the fact that military tribunals should not try civilians.

On 4 July 2010 Mr Al-Maleh was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on the grounds of “transferring false and exaggerated news that weaken national sentiment”, under Articles 285 and 286 of the Syrian Criminal Code. “Such charges are too vague and easy to abuse. They have no place in jurisdiction of any modern state,” Chairwoman Hautala stressed.

She noted that serious concerns remain also over the fairness of the trial of Mr Al-Maleh.

Most importantly, there are serious grounds to believe that Al-Maleh is a victim of repression of by the authorities, in response to his human rights work. He must be released immediately, Ms Hautala added.

 She added that she would like to propose Mr Haytham Al-Maleh a candidate for 2010 European Parliament Sakharov-prize for Freedom of Thought.