Four Syrian left-wingers have been sentenced to several years in prison, accused of being members of the Party for Communist Action (PCA) and they have no right of appeal. In Defence of Marxism condemns this barbaric act and adds its voice to the calls for their immediate and unconditional release. We publish here the note that recently went up on the Amnesty International website.
Amnesty International today [January 29 ] called for the immediate and unconditional release of four Syrian men who were imprisoned on 23 January after being found guilty of involvement with an unauthorized left-wing political party.
‘Abbas ‘Abbas, aged 65, was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment and Ahmed al-Nihawi, Ghassan Hassan and Towfiq ‘Umran to four years each. They were convicted on the basis of belonging to a “secret organization with the aim of changing the political, social and economic nature of the state” (Article 306 of the Penal Code), a reference to their purported involvement with the Party for Communist Action (PCA).
Amnesty International considers all four men to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their perceived or actual political affiliations.
The four men were tried before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose proceedings fail to conform to recognized international fair trial standards. They have no right to an appeal before this court. The SSSC handed ‘Abbas ‘Abbas a longer sentence than his three co-defendants after considering that he had reoffended; he had previously served both a two-year and a 15-year sentence for his affiliation to the PCA.
The PCA was founded in 1976 under another name which it changed to the PCA in 1980. Advocating only non violent methods for political change, it was effectively crushed when hundreds of its members were arrested and tried before the SSSC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ‘Abbas ‘Abbas was one of scores of PCA prisoners adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International at the time. It remains unclear what membership if any the party retains or whether any activities are carried out in its name today.
In court the four men denied that they were PCA members and ‘Abbas ‘Abbas said that, in any case, the party had been destroyed as a result of the large-scale arrests and detention of members in previous decades.
The four men were arrested on 21 May 2009 while meeting at a house in Salamiya in the province of Hama and have been in detention since then.
Established in 1968, the SSSC is not an independent and impartial tribunal; rather it is under the control of the executive branch and operates outside the ordinary criminal justice system. Its judges, who are invariably members of the ruling Ba’th Party, have wide discretionary powers.
While designated for the trial of people charged with political and state security offences, such offences are very widely interpreted. As such, defendants before the SSSC tend to be members or affiliates of unauthorized political parties, human rights organisations and civil society groups and yet they are charged with, and found guilty of, security offences.
In 2007 Amnesty International sent a 10-page memorandum to the Syrian authorities outlining flaws with the SSSC and urging them to carry out a fundamental reform of the court or to have it abolished. It is yet to receive a response