Syria sentences leading lawyer Maleh to 3 years

DAMASCUS, July 4 Sun Jul 4, 2010 5:02am EDT

DAMASCUS, July 4 (Reuters) - A Syrian military court on Sunday sentenced a 79-year old lawyer who campaigned for decades to lift an emergency law to three years in prison on charges of "weakening national morale", defence lawyers said.

"This is tragic. Haitham Maleh is an old and ill man," one of the lawyers said.

Maleh, who spent six years as a political prisoner in the 1980s and was banned from leaving Syria, was awarded the Dutch Geuzen Medal in 2006, named after resistance fighters against the Nazis. Numerous international organisations and Western governments have been calling for his release.

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