[JURIST] A Syrian court Tuesday sentenced human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni [Human Rights First backgrounder] to five years in prison and imposed a $2,000-equivalent fine for spreading false information harmful to the state. Al-Bunni has been detained since he and several other activists were arrested last year [JURIST report] following their signature of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration [text]. The declaration calls for normalization of relations between Syria and Lebanon [JURIST news archive], a properly demarcated border, the release of political prisoners and the exchanging of ambassadors. Khalil Maatouk, al-Bunni's lawyer, announced plans to appeal the decision.
Both Maatouk and Amnesty International [advocacy website] describe the ruling as an attempt to intimidate Syrian society [statement] and quell dissent. According to Amnesty, al-Bunni's arrest and charges stem from his legitimate work to further human rights. AP has more.