02/01/2008, 00.00
SYRIA
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More dissidents arrested in Damascus

More political opponents are put behind bars. The fate of artist Talal Abu Dan is similar that of many Syrian intellectuals recently jailed for their pro-democracy activities.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Talal Abu Dan, a prominent Syrian artist and political dissident, is the latest opposition activist to be arrested for his support for the Damascus Declaration, a statement signed in 2006 by about 300 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals urging the Syrian authorities to fully recognise Lebanon’s independence and promote normal relations between the two countries.

Abu Dan was arrested in Aleppo on Wednesday and later moved to Damascus where other dissident supporters of radical pro-democracy changes are under detention.

Married with three children, the Syrian artist has already spent ten years in jail for being a member of a banned Communist Party. His flat in Aleppo was ransacked on 21 January and his paintings and canvasses destroyed.

Syria’s National Organisation for Human Rights slammed the actions against opponents calling them attempts at intimidation against the signatories of the 2006 Declaration.

The group of 163 supporters of the Damascus Declaration was formed in 2005. Since their last meeting in December to set up a national council at least 11 have been arrested, including Abu Dan.

The arrest of another important member of the group last Monday, Riad Serif, was criticised by the United States.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, called the actions against political opponents a violation of human rights and “internationally recognised rights of freedom of expression and association.”

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