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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06DAMASCUS3488 2006-07-17 14:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

SYRIA'S KAMAL LABWANI READS STATEMENT IN COURT

Tags:   PHUM PGOV SY 
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O 171429Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0378
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0125
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 003488 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR WALLER, LONDON FOR TSOU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2016
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SY
SUBJECT: SYRIA'S KAMAL LABWANI READS STATEMENT IN COURT


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Stephen A. Seche for reasons 1.4 b/d



1. (SBU) Jailed opposition activist Kamal Labwani appeared
July 16 in criminal court and read a three-page statement on
his own behalf to explain his televised Al-Hurra and
Mustaqbal interviews in late 2005 in which he called for
diplomatic pressure to bring political changes in Syria. An
animated Labwani said that he did not call for the
application of military or economic pressure on Syria, but
rather the same kind of political pressure that even allies
sometimes exercise with one another, as in the case of the
U.S. and Israel. Labwani's statement, which was in Arabic,
also contained a reference to the "corrupt" Syrian
government, prompting the judge to bang his gavel. At the
completion of Labwani's statement, members of his extended
family and Syrian activists burst into applause and were
evicted from the courtroom.



2. (SBU) Following Labwani's statement, one of Labwani's
two-person defense team, Muhanned al-Hasani, read a lengthy
statement to protest actions by Syrian security and jail
officials who are preventing Labwani from meeting privately
with his lawyers to prepare the defense. (Note: A third
member of the defense team, former Damascus Spring detainee
Habib Issa, recently withdrew from the defense out of
frustration over his inability to prepare a defense for what
he sees as a clearly political trial, which the SARG is
seeking to present as an example of the regime's transparent
legal system.)



3. (SBU) The presiding judge adjourned the trial until July
25 to give the court a chance to review the statements by
Labwani and the lawyers, both of which were admitted into
Labwani's file. (Note: The judge still has not yet ruled on
whether the Al-Hurra interview may be aired in courtroom.)
After the case's adjournment, Labwani's sister tearfully
voiced concerns that Syrian authorities would "harm or do
even worse" to her brother in jail because of the strong July
16 statement.



4. (C) Several days before the trial, members of the Labwani
family, including Labwani's wife, Sumer, voiced support for a
USG statement on behalf of Labwani and other prominent Syrian
political prisoners who are working for freedom and reforms
to benefit the Syrian public. At the same time, family
members expressed concern that Israeli actions in Lebanon
(and the absence of USG condemnation of the actions) could
make such a statement a liability. As an aside, Sumer
Labwani did not know why the SARG had officially banned her
earlier this month from leaving the country. Sumer asserted
that she is not involved in political issues, except as an
advocate for her husband. (Note: According to another
Labwani lawyer Khalil Matouk, other prominent Syrians who
were also banned at the same time are: Suheir Atassi,
President of the Jamal Atassi Forum; Mohamad Walid al Bunni,
a Damascus Spring prisoner who was released last year; Habib
Issa; and Fawaz Tello, a Damascus Spring prisoner who was
released last year.)
SECHE