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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Three top dissidents jailed in Syria
Syrians show their support for Bashar al-Assad's presidency
Only Assad's supporters are allowed to demonstrate
Three Syrian dissidents have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to five years.

They were the last of 10 men arrested a year ago, when President Bashar el-Assad began clamping down on political 'salons', or discussion groups held in private homes.


These trials have revealed a deep defect in the justice system.

Defence lawyer Mohammed Raadun

Fawaz Tello, an engineer, was sentenced to five years for undermining the constitution, inciting sedition and propagating lies.

Kamal Labwani, a physician, was given three years for similar offences.

"You're a doctor, so learn to go to your clinic and not interfere in politics," the judge reportedly told Kamal Labwani.

Teacher Hassan Saadun, received a two-year sentence. His lawyers said he had written to President Bashar al-Assad to apologise for his activities.

Crackdown

The Damascus state security court where the three were tried was closed to the public.

The verdicts were relayed to reporters by defence attorney Mohammed Raadun.

President Bashar al-Assad
Assad is now following in his father's footsteps
"These trials have revealed a deep defect in the justice system," he told reporters.

Mr Raadun, a spokesman for a committee that defends political prisoners, also demanded an end to "special tribunals and a general amnesty for all (who committed) political offences".

Among those convicted in previous trials were prominent economist Aref Dalila, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail, and legislators Riyadh Seif and Mamoun Homsi - who were given five-year sentences.

Restraints on Syrian society eased when President Assad came to power two years ago, but the authorities subsequently closed most of the private discussion groups.

Correspondents say this marked a return to the hard-line policies of President Assad's predecessor and father, Hafez.

See also:

31 Jul 02 | Middle East
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
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24 Nov 01 | Middle East
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