Legal Authorities Mobilize to Defend Rights of Syrian Jews

The New York Legal Coalition for Syrian Jewry announced today that more than 200 prominent members of the legal profession, including public officials, deans, attorneys and judges have joined together to defend the rights of Syrian Jews, especially the right to emigrate.

New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, one of the four chairmen, stated that the Coalition “will seek to document and publicize the facts regarding the denial of rights and persecution of the Syrian Jewish community.” The other chairmen are Gov. Hugh Carey of New York; Clifford Case, former Republican U.S. Senator from New Jersey; and Joseph McLaughlin, Dean of Fordham University School of Law.

Case said that according to reports on Syria from international rights organizations, there have been “several striking abuses of civil liberties. These include arbitrary detention without trial for political offenses; closed trials with no right to defense counsel; no right to call witnesses when trials are held; torture and beatings; severe internal travel restrictions; and an absolute ban on Jewish emigration.”

In its most recent report, the Department of State has severely criticized the Syrian government noting in particular the prohibition against Jewish emigration Case said. In addition, he noted, the report stated, “There are significant restraints on freedom of speech and assembly, although these freedoms are guaranteed by the Syrian constitution.”

NOTES TIMELINESS OF ANNOUNCEMENT

Laurence Tisch, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, with which the Coalition is affiliated, noted the timeliness of this announcement.

“It is important to realize that Syrian Jews have risked their lives and the lives of their children in order to escape,” he said. “There is evidence that a group of lawyers organized in Syria to protest restrictions was recently forced to disband. This, together with other reports of violence in Aleppo and Damascus and threats of civil war, cause us great concern for the safety of our brethren in Syria. The more unstable the situation becomes in Syria, the more likely it is that the Jews may be used as pawns, even scapegoats.

Abrams added, “The new merger between Syria and Libya causes us great concern for the safety of the Syrian Jewish community. Mr. (Hofez) Assad (President of Syria), well-known for his hostility to Israel, recently declared, Unity will be a health potion for us and the death knell for our enemies’.”

Among the attorneys working on various Coalition projects are lawyers from families that emigrated from Syria. The Coalition will work with a similar group established in Los Angeles. The leadership of the California Coalition includes Mayor Thomas Bradley, Republican Sen. S.I. Hayakawa and other prominent members of the state’s legislative bodies.

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