Back in the 1950s, as a lawyer and a judge, Haitham Maleh began promoting human rights in Syria.
In the 1980s he was detained without trial for seven years.
Since then he has been tried three times by military tribunals and only last year, now in his late 70s, Haitham Maleh was arrested again.
The BBC's William Edmundson spoke to his son, Ilyas.
It is nearly 10 years since Bashar al-Assad inherited the Syrian presidency from his father, Hafez al-Assad.
So what are the prospects for change in the country?
Joshua Landis heads the Centre for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
First broadcast 22 January 2010