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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 10:20 GMT
Syria activist blasts trial delay
Aktham Naisse
Naisse was held after organising public criticism of the regime
A prominent Syrian human rights activist has urged the government in Damascus to halt his trial after it was adjourned for three months on Sunday.

The activist, Aktham Naisse, is charged by the Syrian authorities with opposing the ruling Baath party.

He is also accused of spreading false information and having links to international human rights groups.

He is quoted by the Associated Press as describing his trial as unconstitutional and a farce.

His defence lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni, said the State Security court delayed proceedings because the senior sitting judge - who has retired - has yet to be replaced.

If found guilty Mr Naisse faces up to 15 years in jail.

"Despite all the international calls and protests for the trial to be cancelled because of a lack of fair and legal procedures, the authorities are insisting it goes ahead as a sword of Damocles over all political and rights activists," Mr Bunni said.

International award

Mr Naisse heads the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria.

He was arrested in April on charges of engaging in activities "against the socialist regime" after organising a protest in March outside the Syrian parliament to call for greater freedom and a lifting of the state of emergency which ahs been in force since 1963.

He is currently free on bail. Mr Naisse recently won an international human rights award.

The Martin Ennals Foundation has said it hopes to present the award at a ceremony in Geneva next September even though Mr Naisse is barred from travelling abroad.

In announcing the award, the foundation described Mr Naisse as "an extraordinary example of a man who has fought for fundamental rights in spite of constantharassment and threats".

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