Syrian communist dissident on hunger strike

DAMASCUS, Feb 22, 2011 (AFP) – A former member of Syria’s communist opposition who was jailed a year ago has launched a hunger strike to protest over the conditions of her imprisonment, rights groups said on Tuesday.

Tuhama Maaruf, 47, had began the hunger strike five days ago in Adra prison, just outside the capital Damascus, the eight non-governmental groups said in a joint statement.

She was calling for “an end to the inhumane practices to which she is subjected” and requesting her “transfer from Adra prison to a prison for women,” they said.

Signatories of the statement included the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

The group expressed its “complete solidarity” with the detainee and appealed for the authorities to take “all measures necessary to guarantee and enforce the respect of human rights.”

Maaruf was jailed in 1992 for one year and then freed pending trial.

She was arrested in the northern city of Aleppo on February 6 last year before being transfered to the prison to complete a six-year sentence of hard labour.

The sentence was originally handed down in 1995, for “membership in a secret organisation (the banned communist party) that seeks to modify the economic and social character of the state.”

Maaruf, a dentist, is married and a mother of two.

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