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Syria: Arrest and incommunicado detention of human rights defender and lawyer Mr Abdulla Al Khalil
On 3 February 2012 human rights defender and lawyer Mr Abdulla Al Khalil was arrested in Al Riqqa and is currently being held in incommunicado detention.
Abdulla Al Khalil, a member of the Detainees Defence Team in Al Riqqa, has provided free legal aid and financial assistance to dozens of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention since the uprising in the country began in March 2011. He was the subject of the Front Line Defenders' urgent appeal dated 1 February 2012 when he was summoned to court on criminal charges.
On 3 February 2012, Abdulla Al Khalil was arrested by agents thought to belong to Syrian military security. Since his arrest he has been held incommunicado in an undisclosed location. There is grave concern about his safety as it is feared that he may be subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention. The arrest of the human rights defender came three days before he was due to appear before a court in Al Riqqa on charges of aggression on state property and illegal building under the provisions of the penal code and law no. 59 of 2008. These charges carry with them sentences ranging from six months to two years imprisonment.
The arrest and detention of Abdulla Al Khalil form part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment, intimidation and death threats by Syrian authorities against the human rights defender, his family and those who work with him since he started his work on behalf of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention in March 2011. In April 2011, he received death threats perpetrated by an official of the ruling Ba'ath party calling for his head be cut off and thrown into the Euphrates river. On 1 May 2011, he was arrested by the military security in Al Riqqa and shackled and blindfolded for several hours while being held in solitary confinement. He was held without charge for a month despite the fact that his official period of detention expired ten days after his arrest.
On 22 August 2011, the human rights defender was arrested at the Justice Palace building in Al Riqqa as he was taking part in a sit-down protest with fellow lawyers and was detained for a week. On 15 December 2011, Abdulla Al Khalil and his son Muhammad were arrested in front of their home by a group of security officers and were detained at the criminal security department in separate cells. His son was released the following day but Abdulla Al Khalil was detained for a week. Last month his farm house was demolished and he was threatened with the destruction of his olive trees after he called for the downfall of Bashar Al-Assad. During the demolition of the house, which was ordered by the Governor of Al Riqqa, members of the human rights defender's family were attacked and one of his nephews was hospitalised as a result of a beating received.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Abdulla Al Khalil and believes that he faces a risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention. Front Line Defenders believes that Abdulla Al Khalil arrest and detention are directly related to his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights in particular his work in providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations in the context of the ongoing Syrian uprising.