Verhagen condemns conviction of Syrian Geuzen Medal holder

Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has called upon the Syrian authorities to release human rights defender Haytham Al-Maleh without delay. On Sunday, a military court in Damascus sentenced the 79-year-old human rights lawyer, who is in fragile health, to three years’ imprisonment. Mr Al-Maleh was arrested last October after he gave an interview to an independent television channel.

“The conviction of Mr Al-Maleh, a prominent lawyer and leading human rights defender, once again testifies to the lack of respect for human rights and civil liberties in Syria. This case and other recent arrests and convictions undermine the fundamental right of freedom of expression,” the minister said.

Mr Verhagen has requested the attention of his European counterparts for Mr Al-Maleh’s case and those of two other Syrian human rights defenders involved in the Damascus Declaration, which is critical of the state of emergency that has been in force since 1963.

Mr Al-Maleh was awarded the Dutch Geuzen Medal back in 2006 for his courageous efforts to defend human rights. The Dutch embassy in Damascus will monitor his case closely.