Monday, February 23, 2004

What do Chirac and the al-Assad family have in common?

They both seem to have a problem with Syrian human rights activist Nizar Nayouf. Nayouf spent ten years in a Syrian prison thanks to his role as Editor-in-Chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy's Vote) and as Secretary-General of the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Freedom. He was placed in solitary confinement and his torture at the hands of Syrian's Intelligence Services left him with spinal injuries, a failing left kidney, a bleeding gastric ulcer, deteriorating eyesight, paralysis in his lower extremities and disfigurements caused by cigarette burns.

France granted Nayouf political aslym in 2002, and Nayouf has since sought to publicize the less pleasant aspects of the al-Assad regime. However, as Petrified Truth notes:

"Despite repeated requests by Nayouf during the last 18 months, the French government has refused to grant him access to official documents that would allow him to travel freely and continue his human rights work. Moreover, upon asking French authorities last month for the political refugee passport he was legally granted in 2002 (and is due to him by French law), Nayouf was denied yet again and told, much to his surprise, that he "already had" a Syrian passport.

As a result, Nayouf remains confined to Paris, denied permission to attend Syrian human rights conferences, where he has often been invited as a featured speaker."

ChronWatch has further details:

"Most recently he [Nayouf] was unable to attend a November conference of Syrian democracy advocates in Washington, D.C. that spawned a fledgling Syrian Democratic Coalition led by the Syrian-born Farid Ghadry...Nayouf says he was ''advised'' by French police not to attend the conference and speak out against the Ba'ath Party. According to Basheer Bakr, a journalist from the newspaper Al-Hayat, a senior French official confirmed that his government did not want Nayouf participating in the conference. While Nayouf is not the only ex-political prisoner on Syria's list of gag-order targets, his case is unique in that, like President Assad, he is an Alawite and hails from a family connected to the country's Ba'athist ruling apparatus."

ChronWatch goes on to note that Nayouf's case "is considered sensitive in the corridors of the French foreign ministry."

For its part, the French Foreign Ministry categorically denies that any unique restrictions have been placed on Nayouf.

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