Lebanese monks in Syrian jail
SOLIDE says pair disappeared in 1990 and are now in Tadmor prison
23/06/04 - Daily Star
The Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE) group announced Monday that two Antonine monks, Suleiman Abu Khalil and Albert Cherfane, are being held in the Tadmor prison in Syria, a finding the group said it learned of during several meetings held in France between the committee and former Syrian political prisoners.
Abu Khalil and Cherfane both disappeared in 1990, along with many Lebanese.
SOLIDE had repeatedly asserted that the two monks are among Lebanese still being held in Syrian prisons.
In June 2001, State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum said the monks were buried in a mass grave with an undetermined number of soldiers in Yarzeh, in Baabda.
Both Lebanese and Syrian authorities deny the presence of Lebanese prisoners in Syria.
"We challenged Addoum to unearth the grave and show us the bodies of the two monks and the soldiers, but he failed to do so," said SOLIDE director Ghazi Aad.
According to SOLIDE, Haytham Naal, a former Syrian political prisoner released from Syrian prisons on Aug. 11, 2002, recently revealed he had seen both monks in Tadmor prison.
"The meetings SOLIDE held with former Syrian prisoners to specify the location of Lebanese detainees at the Syrian prisons were very recent," Aad said, without specifying the exact date.
The meetings also revealed that Cherfane and Abu Khalil were not the only monks inside the prison, but were accompanied by other monks and several other Lebanese detainees.
"We were informed that ... Tadmor prison was full of Lebanese detainees, including the two monks, until 2001 when they were transported to other prisons," Aad said.
Aad said that SOLIDE would wait for feedback from both the Lebanese and the Syrian authorities, before the group decides on its next steps.
"We tried three times to discuss the Lebanese detainees' issue with the Syrian authorities, but could not reach any positive outcome. It seems that they don't want to discuss the file," he said.
The presence of Lebanese detainees inside Syria was asserted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a report it issued in November of last year. The report noted the presence of Lebanese George Shallawit, Najib Jarmani and Tanious Habre in Syrian prisons.