He was always there for us

Case Focus: Fa’eq al-Mir (Fa’eq Ali Asa’d)

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Fa’eq al-Mir, who is also known as Fa’eq Ali Asa’d, aged 61, is a long-term peaceful political activist. Prior to his arrest he worked as an assistant engineer.

His son, Ali Asa’d, told Amnesty International: “Three words describe my father: optimistic, determined and energetic. He was always there for us, giving us hope in desperate times. He was very close to me and my sister – our relationships are like a friendship more than anything else.”

As a young man, Fa’eq joined the Communist Party Political Bureau, an unauthorized political party which called for democracy and free elections in Syria. As a result, at the age of 25 he was arrested by Syrian Military Intelligence for the first time and held for a month.

Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience were held during the presidency of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current President Bashar al-Assad, many of them after grossly unfair trials. These included members and suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as of the Communist Party Political Bureau and the Communist Workers Party. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees was rife.

In 1983, Fa’eq was discharged from his employment, which he later discovered was on the order of the security authorities. After a raid on his home by Political Security agents, he spent almost two years in hiding, but was eventually arrested again by Military Intelligence in Damascus. In 1989 he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Supreme State Security Court on charges including “membership in a secret organization aimed at overthrowing the political and social system of the state”. Proceedings before the Court were grossly unfair.

Ali continues: “The long and repeated detention periods took their toll on my father, both psychological and physical. He told us that he was tortured during his detention, specifically during the first three years he spent in the security branch. The torture and other ill-treatment left permanent injuries and pain in his neck and his spine, weak kidneys and hearing problems. “He was not able to see his children grow up; he was deprived of being able to celebrate the most important moments in his family’s life, including the birth of his first grandchild.”

Fa’eq al-Mir was released from Saydnaya Military Prison in 1999 but was arrested again in 2006 by State Security forces. He was detained in ‘Adra Prison for 18 months for “circulating false or exaggerated news which would weaken the morale of the nation”. He went into hiding again in 2010 and was sentenced in his absence to 15 years’ imprisonment for “weakening national sentiments”, a charge often used against peaceful government critics.

He eluded arrest for the following three years. However, on 7 October 2013 Fa’eq al-Mir left his home in Damascus in an area under the control of the government. He never returned but shortly afterwards a group of armed men in civilian clothing believed to be members of the security forces raided his house, intimidated his family and confiscated electronic equipment and other items.

His family have made two official inquiries, but have not received any answers. Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Fa’eq al-Mir. At a minimum, the authorities must inform his family of his whereabouts and provide him with immediate access to his family, lawyers and medical care.

Source: “Voices in Crisis”, Amnesty International, June 2015