[JURIST] A Syrian court sentenced writer and activist Michel Kilo [AI backgrounder] Monday to a prison term of three years for "speaking false news, weakening national feeling and inciting sectarian sentiments." Kilo was arrested [BBC report] in May 2005 along with nine other Syrians shortly after signing the so-called Beirut-Damascus Declaration of 12 May [text excerpts], which calls for the normalization of relations between Syria and Lebanon [JURIST news archives], a properly demarcated border, the release of political prisoners, and an exchange of ambassadors. The petition, signed by some 300 prominent Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals, was published in the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar [media website] and echoed UN Security Council Resolution 1060 [summary and text] urging Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Translator Mahmoud Issa also received a three-year sentence and two other activists received ten-year sentences in absentia. The defendants are expected to appeal the verdict within 30 days.
The four sentences come just days after political dissident Kamal Labwani was sentenced to 12 years in prison [JURIST report] for "encouraging attack against Syria" after meeting with officials from the White House during a visit to the US in 2005. In April, a Syrian court sentenced [JURIST report] human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni [HRF backgrounder] to five years in prison and imposed a $2,000 fine for "speaking false information" harmful to the state. Al-Bunni was arrested soon after publicly criticizing the Syrian government for Kilo's arrest. AP has more.