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California Pro Bono

Activist's freedom affirmed important principle

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

When a prominent Syrian human rights lawyer was imprisoned in 2009, lawyers from Hogan Lovells teamed up with Freedom Now to seek justice on his behalf.

Partner Marc Gottridge and associate Jason Porta collaborated with the nonprofit in a successful petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in October ruled that Muhannad Al-Hassani's imprisonment was illegal and that he was entitled to reparations.

While the decision was pending, the Syrian government released Al-Hassani in summer 2011 in a general amnesty. The Syrians argued that his release made the case moot, Gottridge said, but the U.N. group refused to drop the matter. "It was quite a statement," he said. "The decision is an affirmation of principle. Just because he was released doesn't make the matter academic."

The case represented "absolutely a trend," said Esther Lardent of the Pro Bono Institute. "As the commercial practice of law becomes global, we are seeing a parallel growth in global pro bono. Law firms are building international pro bono practices — in human rights, economic development, rule of law work and more."

 

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