Elderly Syrian Human Rights Lawyer Granted Presidential Pardon
March 14, 2011
On March 8, 2011, veteran Syrian human rights lawyer Haytham al-Maleh was released from ’Adra Prison after he was granted a presidential pardon because of his advanced age and serious ill-health. Mr. al-Maleh, who is 80 years old and suffers from diabetes and an overactive thyroid gland, had served more than one year and four months of a three-year prison term for “weakening national sentiment” and “broadcasting false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country.” Mr. al-Maleh was arrested on October 14, 2009, after he came out of retirement to defend two human rights lawyers who had been arrested for providing legal counsel to political detainees, including four medical doctors, an engineer, and a dentist whose cases had been undertaken by the CHR and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network).
In its role as Secretariat of the H.R. Network, the CHR documented Mr. al-Maleh’s case and shared the information with affiliated national academies that include lawyers in their membership. During Mr. al-Maleh’s imprisonment, these academies sent more than 20 letters of appeal to Syrian authorities in his behalf.
Immediately upon his release from prison, Mr. al-Maleh gave several interviews to media outlets and reportedly told Amnesty International: I hope to keep to my promise I made to those who have supported me, by continuing my work. I call on the government to release all the prisoners of conscience in ’Adra Prison and the thousands of others like them detained in security facilities.