A Syrian court has sentenced a leading leftist to seven-and-a-half years in jail, signaling a continued tough stance against dissent after a revolution in Tunisia that jolted Arab governments.
Syrian rights groups said Sunday that Abbas Abbas, along with three other former militants, were charged with belonging to "a secret organization." The other defendants each received four-year sentences.
The charge of belonging to a secret organization traditionally has been used against suspected members of independent political organizations, which have been banned in Syria since the Baath Party took power in 1963, outlawing opposition and imposing an emergency law that remains in effect.
Three of the men already have spent years as political prisoners for their affiliation with Syria's communist labor movement. Abbas was jailed for 17 years for belonging to the Communist Workers Party under the rule of the late President Hafez al-Assad.
The four were arrested in 2009 and stood trial more than a year later. All of them pleaded not guilty, telling the court they had ceased their political activities.
Rulings by the state security court cannot be appealed.
A former political prisoner following the case said rights groups had expected the four to receive two-year sentences each.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.