All of these professional colleagues were arrested in December 2007 for their participation in peaceful political activities associated with the National Council of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change (DDDNC)—an umbrella organization comprised of representatives of opposition political parties and pro-democracy groups in Syria. The Syrian government considers the National Council of the DDDNC to be an illegal organization.
On October 29, 2009, following Criminal Court proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards, each of these colleagues was convicted under Syria’s Penal Code with “weakening national sentiments and awakening racism and sectarianism” (Article 285), “broadcasting false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country” (Article 286), joining an “organization formed for the purpose of changing the financial or social status of the State” (Articles 304 and 306), “carrying out acts or writing material the aim of which is to inflame sectarian or racist feelings or to provoke conflict between the sects and the rest of the nation,” (Article 307), and “joining a secret organization” (Article 327). All were considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience.
Shortly after her release, Dr. al-Horani is quoted as saying, “I thank all who stood with me during my detention and kept my morale high.” Soon after Dr. al-Bunni’s release from prison, in a statement to his associates, he wrote:
Our return to freedom and to the clean fresh air outside prison walls is something very touching. I will now focus on my family stability and I will be near my children, especially since one of my sons is a student in secondary school.
We thank the many CHR correspondents and H.R. Network participants who responded to our alerts by writing more than 80 letters to the Syrian authorities appealing for the release of this group of colleagues.