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Syria Today – Trial of Bosnian Man for “Warfare in Syria”, Lebanon Threatens Opposition Activist

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Trial of Bosnian Man for “Warfare in Syria”, Lebanon Threatens Opposition Activist

The trial of Adnan Ćatić for allegedly organizing a terrorist group and engaging in foreign battlefield activities commenced following the reading of the indictment and the opening statement by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Concurrently, on Wednesday, 6 February, Syrian opposition activist and researcher Sheikh Jumaa Lehib received a deportation order from Lebanon to Syria amidst an intensified crackdown on Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Trial of Adnan Catic for warfare in Syria has begun

With the reading of the indictment and presentation of the opening statement of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the trial of Adnan Ćatić for organizing a terrorist group and participating in a foreign battlefield began.

According to Sarajevo Times,  Prosecutor Merisa Nurkić read the indictment, which states that Ćatić created a plan in 2013 with the aim of going to the battlefield in Syria and joining the terrorist organization “Jabrat Al Nusra”, which was declared a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council.

According to the indictment, Ćatić left Bosnia and Herzegovina from Sarajevo airport on July 1, 2013, went to Turkey, and then illegally crossed to the territory of Syria.

According to reports, he joined the terrorist organization “Jabrat Al Nusra”, whose members intend to force the legitimate authorities of this country to change the constitutional order through daily armed actions – including attacks on the population, killings, illegal detentions, taking hostages – and other actions.

As stated by the prosecutor Nurkić, the accused Ćatić became a member of the organization in which he underwent military training and became a sniper of this terrorist group and participated in the battles against the legal army of Syria, where he remained until the end of 2021.

During her opening statement, she said that the Prosecution would prove the guilt of the accused by questioning seven witnesses and presenting material evidence.

The Prosecution also proposed the re-extension of the previously ordered custody of Ćatić, while the Defense proposed ordering house arrest, which the Prosecution opposed.

The hearing of the first witnesses is planned for March 25, Detektor reports.

Syrian opposition activist threatened with deportation from Lebanon

Syrian opposition activist and researcher Sheikh Jumaa Lehib was handed a deportation order on Wednesday, 6 February, from Lebanon to Syria amid a more significant crackdown on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, New arab reported.

Lehib is an opposition activist who was arrested in Syria during the country’s 2011 revolution and is currently the head researcher with the opposition party Syrian Future Movement.

He was given an order to return to Syria by 6 April by Lebanese General Security when he went to renew his residency, despite his registered status with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Activists and human rights monitors have warned that he and his family could be in danger of reprisal from the Assad regime if they are sent back to Syria. 

Refugees who return to Syria have faced torture, forced disappearance, arrest and even death at the hands of authorities.

“I am wanted by the political security directorate, and my name is still present on the list of wanted people. I have a wife and five kids; there is a lot of danger to all of us if I am deported,” Sheikh Jumaa Lehib told The New Arab.

A Lebanese General Security Directorate spokesperson had not responded to TNA’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Lehib’s deportation order comes as Lebanon threatens to send other Syrian activists back to Syria in recent weeks.

“We are seeing several incidences in which Syrian opposition activists or defectors have been reportedly deported or threatened with deportation last month, despite their registration with UNHCR,” Ramzi Kaiss, the Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told TNA.

At least two individuals – a Syrian activist and a defector from the Syrian army – have been threatened with deportation over the last month.

Forced from their home in Syria, five siblings are learning a new life (and language) at Dayton schools

Home is a very important touchstone in people’s lives. This is true anywhere in the world. So when people are in a position where they have to uproot themselves from the place they know as home and establish home somewhere else, it is a major upheaval in their lives, NKyTribune reported

Five children, along with their parents, lived in Syria. That was their home. But when conditions arose where it became impossible for the family to continue to live safely in Syria, they knew they had to leave. They applied for asylum in the United States and it was granted.

Suddenly the five children and their mother and father were refugees in a strange country.

The government settled them in Dayton, Kentucky.

The oldest child, Mohammed, who is now 20, had already finished high school in Syria and the second oldest, a girl named Hala, who is 18, was almost through school back home. But according to Kentucky law, they were required to go back at least a year in their education.

They arrived last summer, with little knowledge of the language, and all five children were enrolled in school. The four older kids were signed up for high school and the youngest, a boy, was put into fifth grade.

“When I first met them, their command of English ranged from about 7 percent to about 30 percent,” said Rick Wolf, Director of Teaching and Learning at Dayton schools. “I decided to meet with them five times a week in the school board room, to see if I could make a difference in the language barrier.”

The sessions started with school and right away they seemed to be helping. The students had lots of questions, and gradually they became more comfortable with Wolf and his easygoing methods of trying to unravel the mysteries of the English language.

“The class I have the most problem with is English,” said Mohammed. He is doing very well in his studies, even though he has to take the year over in this country.

“I want to be a doctor,” he said firmly, smiling all the while. “I love this country.”

His sister Hala, a junior, said she is having some trouble with English, but she is doing well in her studies. She wants to be a doctor also, but unlike Mohammed who wants to be a brain surgeon, she would like to be a pediatrician.

The younger sisters, Fatima, 17, and Dima, 16, both sophomores, deplore the difficulties in English and some in other subjects, but all of the students are determined to get past the hurdles of language. Both of the younger sisters are unsure what their future careers hold.

“We are working on mapping out sounds,” explained Wolf. “A process called chaining where you work on, say, ‘ue’ as in ‘statue’, or ‘ew’, or ‘tu’. There are a lot more sounds that we have to practice with.”

UN-backed commission says 30,000 children are suffering rights abuses in northeastern Syria

Five years after the Islamic State group lost the last sliver of land it controlled in Syria, nearly 30,000 children of militants and their supporters of various nationalities are suffering abuse in camps, prisons and rehabilitation centers in the war-torn country’s northwest, a U.N.-backed commission said Monday.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said most of the children were brought by their parents to parts of Syria and Iraq after the extremists declared a caliphate there in 2014, and it urged all countries with children in Syria to repatriate them and integrate them into their societies.

The largest number of children are staying at al-Hol Camp, which is housing tens of thousands of people, mostly wives and children of IS fighters as well as supporters of the militant group. A smaller number of children are staying at Roj Camp, while teenage boys are kept in jails and rehabilitation run by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

“These children were already victimized during ISIL’s rule, only to be subjected to years of continued human rights violations and abuses,” Commissioner Lynn Welchman said, using an acronym to refer to IS.

The commission said it has concluded that living conditions in heavily guarded al-Hol and Roj camps “amount to cruel and inhuman treatment and outrages on personal dignity.”

Lebanon army rescues 20 Syrians from Mediterranean

The Lebanese Army announced today that it had saved 20 Syrians from drowning during an irregular migration attempt across the Mediterranean Sea.

In a statement, the army said: “Information was available about a boat sinking off the coast of the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, while it was being used to smuggle people.”

“An army naval patrol was able to rescue 20 Syrians, including women, who were on the boat.”Due to the poor economic conditions in Syria, the eastern and northern Lebanese borders with Syria have witnessed a massive wave of displacement with many wishing to continue the journey and move to Europe in search of safety and a better life.

There are 1.8 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including about 880,000 registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, according to Lebanese estimates.

Drug operations: Internal crackdowns do not halt smuggling from Syria

A report by Enab Baladi suggests that despite the United States enacting legislation in December 2022 to dismantle drug operations associated with the Syrian regime, drug smuggling activities from Syria persist unabated, indicating both the limitations of internal crackdowns and the complex regional dynamics that enable the continuation of these illicit networks.

In December 2022, the United States passed legislation targeting drug operations linked to the Syrian regime, specifically aiming to disrupt networks associated with President Bashar al-Assad. Despite these efforts, drug smuggling activities from Syria have continued unabated, with internal crackdowns failing to halt the flow.

The Syrian Ministry of Interior, the report adds,  has made several announcements about thwarting smuggling operations and arresting individuals involved in the drug trade. Notably, operations have shifted focus, with Syria being presented as a transit or receiving point rather than an exporter of drugs. Recent captures include significant quantities of Captagon pills, with one operation seizing over 2.8 million pills. Despite these internal actions, smuggling attempts across borders remain a significant issue.

According to the report, the regime has reported arrests related to drug trafficking and facilitating prostitution, alongside the confiscation of large amounts of narcotics intended for neighbouring countries like Iraq. The pattern of these operations suggests an escalation in drug-related activities within Syria, alongside larger seizures compared to previous months.

Jordanian security experts question the sincerity of the Syrian regime’s announcements, suggesting they may be an attempt to mitigate external pressures rather than a genuine crackdown on drug smuggling. Neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, continue to be targeted by smuggling operations, with Lebanon, via Hezbollah networks, serving as a notable route for exporting drugs into Syria.

The report concludes by stating that regional efforts to combat drug smuggling have intensified, with Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, the Syrian regime, and Egypt forming a collaborative contact cell to exchange expertise and coordinate efforts. Despite these initiatives, significant smuggling attempts continue to be reported, including on the Saudi-Jordanian border, highlighting the ongoing challenge of curtailing the drug trade emanating from Syrian territory.

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