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The daughter of former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Shebli Aysami, who disappeared more than 3 months ago in Lebanon, has revealed that her family has received information that he “was kidnapped by the Syrian regime, and he is today being held as a political prisoner in a Syrian jail.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Aysami’s daughter, Raja Sharafeddine, revealed that “all the security leaks and information in the hands of Human Rights organizations – as well as information coming out of Syria – indicates that he is being held in one of Syria’s jails.” She added that Aysami may have been arrested as a result of “a security mistake or claims made against him or even fear regarding the timing of his visit to Lebanon, which took place after the revolution broke out in Syria.”

Mrs. Sharafeddine also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “my father has always been an opponent of the [current] Syrian regime, but his opposition was always objective and non-violent.” She added that Aysami has not been involved in politics for many years, due to his age – he is 86 – stressing that “he has devoted his time to writing poetry.”

Aysami was last seen on 24 May in the Lebanese town of Aley in the Mount Lebanon region. He was one of the founders of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in the 1940s, and served as Syrian Deputy Prime Minister under Amin al-Hafez. Aysami, who is a prominent member of the Syrian Druze community, later split from the Syrian Baathist party in 1966 over political differences with then president Hafez al-Assad, later joining the Iraqi Baathist party. He has since lived in Iraq, Egypt, and the United States, and has reportedly not been involved in politics since 1992.

Raja Sharafeddine called on the Syrian regime to “match its words with actions as the political amnesty that was declared by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should apply to Shebli Aysami.” She also stressed that “the denials that he has not been abducted does not serve anybody’s interests, particularly not the interests of the [Syrian] regime” adding that “it is in nobody’s interests for a person of Shebli Aysami’s standing to be kidnapped.” Aysami’s daughter also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “as he was kidnapped on Lebanese territory, the Lebanese authorities should therefore be responsible for mediating with Syria to secure his safe return to his family.”

Mrs. Sharafeddine also did not hesitate to express her dissatisfaction with regards to the manner in which the Lebanese security authority have dealt with this case, stressing that “we did not receive our information from this [Lebanese security] apparatus but rather from other sources, therefore the Lebanese authorities delay and lack of seriousness in dealing with this case is clear and must be questioned.”

For his part, official Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party [PSP] spokesman, Rami Rayes, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the PSP is utilizing all of its capabilities to monitor this case, and is carrying out the required political and non-political communication to uncover the truth.” He also called for the public not to “jump to conclusions before all the facts are in.” Rayes stressed that “we have confidence in the Lebanese security apparatus that is solely in charge of monitoring this case and uncovering the truth and we should therefore avoid speculation.”

As for the Aysami family’s ongoing attempts to uncover the truth regarding Shebli Aysami’s whereabouts and secure his safe return, Lebanese Druze figures on Thursday organized a gathering to call on the Lebanese security apparatus to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of the former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister. Participants at the meeting included Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan, PSP MP Akram Chehayeb, Salim Hamadeh of the Lebanese Democratic Party – representing party leader Talal Arsalan – and other Druze figures. The [Lebanese] National News Agency reported that “the members of the meeting called for the truth behind the disappearance of Aysami to be uncovered.”

During this gathering, Aysami’s grandson, Amir Sharafeddine, speaking on behalf of the Aysami family, called on the Lebanese security apparatus to “assume its responsibility, intensify its efforts, and work and cooperate to secure Aysami’s release.”

For his part, PSP MP Akram Chehayeb, who is also a member of the Lebanese National Struggle Front, told the gathering that “he [Aysami] was kidnapped for his political symbolism, therefore we are meeting to affirm our complete rejection of this abduction…and we reaffirm our belief in freedom of speech, freedom of political belief, and freedom of political participation, and we completely reject the logic that anybody who is not with us should be either kidnapped, jailed, or killed.” He added that “we believe in the system of the state…and we are waiting for answers from the [Lebanese] security apparatus. We must take it upon ourselves to continue lodging complaints until we secure the freedom of Shebli Aysami.”

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