PEN International is seriously concerned for the safety of lawyer and writer Muhannad al-Hassani, who is serving a three-year prison sentence in Adra prison, Damascus, for his human rights work and writings, after a trial that fell short of international standards of fairness. He was attacked and severely beaten on October 28, 2010, by a convicted criminal in an apparently orchestrated attack. The attack took place just days after Mr. al-Hassani received the Dean Award of the Amsterdam Bar Association and the Martin Ennals Award for 2010. PEN is gravely concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. al-Hassani in prison, and urges the prison authorities to provide him with adequate protection immediately. PEN considers Muhannad al-Hassani to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a state party, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, writer, lawyer and human rights defender Muhannad al-Hassani was arrested on July 28, 2009, and sentenced on June 23, 2010, to three years in prison. He was charged under Articles 285, 286, and 287 of the Syrian Criminal Code with “weakening national sentiments” and “spreading false information that could debilitate the morale of the nation” for publishing information about unfair trials and torture in Syria and meeting with foreign embassy officials to discuss human rights. On October 29, 2010, the Penal Chamber at the Court of Cassation rejected the defense appeal in the case of Muhannad al-Hassani, confirming the sentence of three years.
The prisoner who attacked Muhannad al-Hassani is said to have been moved into the same cell shortly before the attack, and to have beaten him using a heavy metal finger ring, although prisoners are not normally permitted to wear such jewelry. Mr. al-Hassani required ten stitches for a serious head injury, and there are fears that prison authorities may have been complicit in the attack. Following the incident, the police took statements from other prisoners who had witnessed the assault and interviewed Muhannad al-Hassani in the presence of his attacker. The case was referred to a court in Doumam; however, Muhannad al-Hassani’s lawyers were not informed and so were unable to be present at the hearing. No further action has been taken, to date, to investigate the attack or bring the perpetrator to justice, and Mr. al-Hassani has been moved into solitary confinement.
Al-Hassani is a lawyer and co-founder of the Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiyah). He has repeatedly been targeted by the Syrian authorities for his human rights work, and is known for his published books and studies about human rights, prison conditions, and the judicial system in Syria.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern for al-Hassani’s safety, and seeking assurances that he is afforded adequate protection by prison authorities;
  • Urging the Syrian government to investigate the assault and protect Muhannad al-Hassani from further brutality or ill-treatment in prison;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Muhannad al-Hassani in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410


Minister of Interior
Major Sa’id Mohamed Samour
Ministry of Interior
‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 222 3428

Minister of Foreign Affairs
His Excellency Walid al-Mua’llim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Abu Rummaneh
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 7620

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after November 30, 2010: ftw [at]