'Anwar al-Bunni was bundled into a car, blindfolded and beaten. He was charged with seeking to overthrow the regime, threatening public order, incitement to sectarian hatred and being in contact with foreign powers.
He was sentenced to five years, which he was forced to spend not among political prisoners but criminal detainees. Some rules were specially adapted for Bunni: he was forbidden from having any reading material other than official Syrian newspapers. “They put me in with murderers, to push me more and more,” he says.
In the years since his release from prison, a catastrophic four-year war has torn Syria apart. The world’s response has caused Bunni to revise his view of just how much outsiders care. “The world has closed its eyes to what is happening in Syria,” he says in a phone interview from Germany, where he now lives with his family.
He criticises western states for indicating they may be willing to see Assad remain in power for the duration of any political transition and dismisses the view that Assad should be strengthened as a bulwark against Islamic State (IS). “Daesh (IS) came from outside Syria. It was Bashar and his party that let them come.”
Particularly galling, he says, is the impunity with which the Assad regime can act. “There is no future for Syria if the people responsible for war crimes are not brought to justice. The world is wasting time while people are suffering and dying. Nobody has taken a decision to end this tragedy.” '