Jailed Syrian lawyer awarded international rights prize

7th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Leading international campaign groups have awarded the 2010 Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders to an imprisoned Syrian lawyer, Muhannad al-Hassani, the organisers said on Friday.

The chairman of the jury, Hans Thoolen, described Hassani as "a man of an exceptional courage, arbitrarily detained in unacceptable conditions for defending the rule of law and the right to organise a human rights organisation."

Hassani, the president of the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights, is due to appear in court in Damascus on May 27 after being arrested in July 2009 and charged with spreading false information, the Ennals award said in a statement.

It added he was being held in Adra prison, where he was reportedly in poor condition without access to proper medical care.

The Ennals award, named after a British activist and founder of Amnesty International, was set up by ten of the biggest human rights advocacy groups including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights.

Laureates since 1993 include Chinese dissident Harry Wu, Pakistani lawyer and UN rapporteur Asma Jahangir, as well as activists from Iran, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Chad, Colombia, Russia, Palestinain territories, Syria, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan.

Hassani has been invited to collect the award at a ceremony in the Swiss city of Geneva on October 15, but the Ennals committee said Syrian authorities have imposed a travel ban on him for the past six years.

Human rights groups in Syria last month called on the country's interior ministry to remedy the "harsh and discriminatory" conditions of jailed opposition figures.

© 2010 AFP

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