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What Haitham al-Maleh told the television before he was arrested

Created 13/11/2009 - 18:41
 
Al-Maleh told Panorama that the situation this year was worse than the last, since arrests were increasing. He gave the example of his colleague Muhannad al-Husni who was arrested simply for monitoring public trials and sentences issued during them. State security arrested him and the magistrate issued an arrest warrant against him, the Syrian judiciary continuing to be under control. The syndicate and state security then brought a disciplinary action against him.

Al-Maleh pointed out that all actors in the political and social fields in Syria are moving peacefully. For example, the Damascus Declaration calls for peaceful, democratic, and progressive change. No one believes that violence or revolution leads to change. He stressed that the state has huge potential in terms of intelligence, police, weapons and means of repression, but that they barricade themselves behind laws, beyond any concept of rights or justice.

He gave the examples of decree no. 14 of 1969 which permitted members of state security to commit crimes without being held accountable, the Muslim Brotherhood’s law no. 49 and, above all, the state of emergency declared based on the Emergency Law. 

In answer to a question about the possible link to Internet campaigns such as the mobile phone boycott, he said that the link was spontaneous and the result of people's distress from the tragic state of their lives - not just regarding public freedoms and human rights, but also the huge divide between the rich and the poor. In Syria, the poor are becoming poorer while the rich become greedier, public funds are looted, and corruption widespread.

He said that Baath party member Amran al-Zu'bi, who previously denied any intention to release the Damascus Declaration detainees, described the actions of the Damascus Declaration to be wrong in timing and content.  Al-Maleh said that al-Zu'bi could not however enter the brain of the authorities to know whether they have any intention to declare an amnesty.

“The laws we have only exist in books, and books have been on the shelf for a long time,” he said of the political, economic and civil laws in his country today.

He said that Syria is being run by orders and instructions, and that no one in the country is protected from an aggression by the state or its security forces. He added that the Syrian constitution had been disabled under the state of emergency, as state security was now issuing orders to seize people's homes.

He said that the Baath party is a mere front. Some of its members are powerful and benefit from power, while others rule the country from behind the scenes. He said that he did not know who was responsible in the country or who held the key to its future to ease its people’s problems.

Al-Maleh did not see in the foreseeable future a repeal of article 8 of the constitution, which states that the Baath party heads both the state and society. He said that president of the Syrian Parliament Mahmoud al-Abrash had disregarded the minds of the people when he had stated that a new party law was not necessary as the country was a forerunner in the application of democracy through the National People’s Council and the Progressive National Front.

As for the Syrian slum crisis, al-Maleh said it was a planned and systematic destruction of Damascus, giving the example of how the government had neglected all the useful Syrian regions and pushed people to migrate to Damascus. He added that the state turned a blind eye on the slums, due to rampant corruption in all parts of the state. For example, the governor in rural Damascus had turned a blind eye to deforestation and building against regulations.



He also talked about the pumps installed in the Barada river to use all its water for drinking, after the state had pushed people to migrate from all regions of Syria to Damascus despite it not being able to accommodate so many people. He added that the state had no right to prevent the flow of the Barada river, and that it was a crime against Damascus.

"Damascus is moving towards desertification, and nobody is lifting a finger!"  he said.

He said that the alternative to all these wrong solutions lies in improving the region of the Al-JazÄĞrah where there is oil, water, and wheat. It also lies in the establishment of many projects to counter migration.

He talked about many projects that could be established around cotton and wheat, instead of exporting these raw materials. The solution, he said, would be to encourage the construction of agro-industry manufacturing installations, establish service centers everywhere, and ensure fast means of transport. He added that the solution exists, but it needs will - and will does not exist.

In the context of the slum crisis, al-Maleh said that Syria is a rich country, plagued by the the looting and waste of public money, as each official has 10 to 15 cars at the expense of the people and the state treasury. He also refered to the lack of control in the country as, since the revolution of March 8, there has been no final budget in parliament because ministers are not held accountable.

"How could anyone, even with a salary of a minister, live in Syria where one kilo of meat is 1,000 Syrian pounds in Damascus? How can regular employees live?"

Regarding the state of law in Syria, al-Maleh said that the law is only applied to the weak, while the strong have several ways to do whatever they want. He also commented on the arrests of corrupt people still ongoing as being the weak cases.

But al-Maleh remained optimistic, saying that the future depended on the people who should defend their interests. Every citizen should be aware of his rights and defend them. At the end of the interview, Al Maleh added that Syrians should not renounce to any of their rights, and avoid the country’s destruction.

Haitham al-Maleh was arrested by political security in Damascus on Oct. 14, 2009. He was transferred on Oct. 27, 2009 to the military court in Damascus where he was accused of “spreading lies,” “weakening the spirit of the nation”, as well as “abusing the President of the Republic and the Syrian judiciary.”  He faced charges of up to 15 years in prison.

Al-Maleh was imprisoned from 1980 to 1986 for his political beliefs, and has reportedly been prohibited from traveling abroad since 2004.

Haitham al-Maleh is aged 78 and suffers from diabetes and an overactive thyroid gland, according to Front Line, an international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders calling for his release.

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