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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05DAMASCUS6547 2005-12-18 13:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

LABWANI INTERROGATED BY JUDGE; PRAISES USG

Tags:   PGOV PHUM SY 
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VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #6547 3521325
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181325Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6203
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0553
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 006547 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR ZEYA, LONDON FOR TSOU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2015
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SY
SUBJECT: LABWANI INTERROGATED BY JUDGE; PRAISES USG
STATEMENTS; ASKS BRITISH DIPLOMATS FOR EU PUBLIC SUPPORT

REF: DAMASCUS 5933

Classified By: A/CDA Kathy Johnson-Casares for reasons 1.4(b)/(d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Prominent human rights and opposition
activist Kamal Labwani was interrogated for a second time by
a Criminal Court judge on December 14 for approximately two
and a half hours. Labwani, who appeared to be in good
spirits and good physical condition, spoke with diplomatic
representatives at length, thanking President Bush for the
December 10 White House public statement and encouraging
future statements on behalf of the Damascus Spring detainees
and himself. In an exchange with representatives from the UK
Embassy, Labwani pleaded that the EU should be equally public
in their efforts. END SUMMARY.




2. (C) Prominent human rights and opposition activist Kamal
Labwani appeared before a Criminal Court judge on December 14
for further interrogation regarding five criminal charges,
all of which are political in nature (reftel). Labwani
appeared to be in good spirits and good physical condition,
joking with lawyers and family members both before and after
the interrogation session. Labwani's family pointed out that
he was the only defendant in the court that day who had been
forced to wear prison stripes to court, speculating that the
authorities wanted to criminalize him in the eyes of those
seeing him. Labwani, who has been detained since his return
from the U.S. on November 8, was interrogated for
approximately two and a half hours in the presence of his
defense lawyers. According to lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, the
majority of the interrogation involved the viewing of
Labwani's hour-long interview with al-Hurra television from
late October, followed by questions from the judge regarding
his statements. Lawyer Muhannad al-Hasani added that the
defense team felt they had made some progress in winning the
judge over by speaking to the judge's humanitarianism, saying
that he "wasn't like the other judge" (NOTE: in reference to
infamous Supreme State Security judge Faez al-Nouri) who put
Labwani away for three years in 2001.



3. (C) Prior to the interrogation, Labwani was able to
speak with diplomatic representatives, including Poloff and
two representatives from the UK Embassy. Labwani spoke very
openly and expressed his satisfaction with the statements,
thanking President Bush directly. He asked that such
statements continue on a monthly basis so that his case and
the cases of the six Damascus Spring detainees are not
forgotten by either the public or the SARG. He also noted
that such statements are a boost to the morale of prisoners.
He also requested that the USG make a statement condemning
the actions of Ali Makhlouf, who he identified as the officer
who had hit him during his initial days of detention
(reftel). He noted that he planned to file criminal charges
against Makhlouf once he is released from detention.



4. (C) Labwani then turned his attention to the British
Embassy representatives in the presence of Poloff, asking why
the EU and the UK had not made public statements on his or
the Damascus Spring detainees' behalf. Labwani reminded the
representatives that he had travelled to both Europe and the
U.S. and that the EU had yet to make any clear statement
regarding his fate. After a UK representative explained
that the EU is pursuing less high-profile, diplomatic
channels to win release of the detainees, Labwani answered
that he and the Damascus Spring colleagues hope that when
they are released, they "hope to be able to thank both their
American and European friends for their contributions."
Labwani's wife and sister later commented that more public
statements by the EU would help combat the popular perception
that Labwani is simply a tool of the U.S.



5. (C) The judge will take the interrogation results under
advisement. According to lawyers Bunni and Hasani, the
evidence file remains empty for Labwani's case. The lawyers
plan to petition for a writ of habeas corpus next week,
should SARG authorities be unable to produce any evidence
against their client.
JOHNSON-CASARES