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Prominent Human Rights Activist Imprisoned - Websites

Eight Syrian human rights organisations, in a joint statement posted on various Arab websites on October15, condemned the arrest of the prominent lawyer and activist, Haitham al-Maleh in Damascus.

Maleh, 78, was arrested by the political security service on October14 and his whereabouts since then are unknown, the statement said.

The statement called for the unconditional release of Maleh, who spent more than 50 years of his life working as a judge and a lawyer. He was also imprisoned for six years in the 1980s for activities in the human rights field.

With other activists, Maleh established the Human Rights Association in Syria in 2001 and was the head of the organisation until 2006.

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, two human rights advocates said that the reason for Maleh’s arrest was that he gave an interview to an opposition TV station based outside Syria where he criticised the authorities for limiting freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, lawyer and activist Muhanad al-Hassani was officially charged with “weakening national sentiment” and “propagating false statements”, said a statement issued on the same day by the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights and posted on Syrian websites.

The organisation condemned the decision as “unfair”, calling on the judiciary to reach a verdict that is not influenced by the security services.