02/24/2014, 00.00
SYRIA
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Akram al-Bunni, a Christian, a Communist dissident and critic of Assad, arrested

by Paul Dakiki
Jailed several times for about 20 years for criticising the Assad regime and calling for a democratic transformation of society, last year he called on Syria's minorities not to use fear of radical Islam to endorse the Assad dictatorship.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Akram al-Bunni, a dissident writer and a critic of the Assad' regime, was arrested by the state security services on Saturday as he left a wedding reception at a Damascus hotel. No one knows where he was taken.

The writer was taken by agents from an intelligence division run by Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, said his brother Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer.

Over the years, Akram had riled the authorities by publicly supporting a democratic alternative to the four-decade rule of the Assad family.

The al-Bunni are a Christian family, well known in Syria for its opposition to the Assad family's rule and its support for democracy.

The four Bunni brothers, one sister and two of their spouses have spent a total of 70 years among them as political prisoners. Akram al-Bunni, 58, spent at least 20 years in prison on and off.

He was jailed from 2007 to 2010, alongside 11 other dissidents, for signing the so-called Damascus Declaration demanding radical democratic change in Syria.

A member of the banned Party for Communist Action, he was also jailed from 1978 to 1980, and again from 1987 to 2001, when Syria was ruled by former President Hafez al-Assad, President Bashar al-Assad's father.

In an essay published last April on the Arab Reform Initiative, Akram addressed Syria's minorities, urging them not to be stopped by their fear of radical Islamism, blindly accepting the lack of democracy under the Assad regime.

Despite the increased persecution of dissidents, Akram chose to stay in Damascus when the Arab Spring started.

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