Independent Syrian Deputy arrested on Criminal Charges
Syrian authorities Thursday arrested Riad Seif, an independent deputy known for his opposition to the ruling Baath party, on criminal charges, the official SANA agency reported.
"The judge today (Thursday) issued an arrest warrant against Riad Seif, a member of the people's parliament, as he stands accused of committing crimes," the agency said, cited by AFP.
It added that Seif's parliamentary immunity had been waived.
According to the BBC.online, Seif was arrested after he held a meeting of intellectuals at his home in Damascus.
More than 200 people attended the debating forum on Wednesday, despite a ban on such meetings.
During the meeting, Seif had called on Wednesday for the immediate release of Riad Turk, an opposition leader arrested on Saturday, and of Maamun al-Homsi, an independent deputy arrested on August 9.
Attending were academics, writers and lawyers, who make up an informal pro-democratic grouping that came together after Bashar al-Assad assumed the presidency in July 2000.
"The forum (debating circle) is restarting its activities; we have not been authorized but we believe the existence of a peaceful and public opposition is a necessity," Seif told the gathering.
For its first session, the circle invited the Syrian sociologist Burhan Ghaliun, who called on Assad to "take a courageous initiative" and hold democratic elections.
Homsi, 45, is accused of wanting to create "disorder" by starting a hunger strike on August 7, the first to be publicly announced in Syria.
Homsi, who some months ago called for the creation of a parliamentary commission on human rights, wanted the hunger strike to draw attention to the "pressures" he said had been brought to bear on him by the authorities.
Turk, 71, was released in 1998 after 17 years in prison, but was re-arrested for strident criticism of the late president Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current Syrian leader.
The arrest of Turk prompted a strong reaction for his release among rights groups, such as Amnesty International, and a number of Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals.
France also expressed concern at the arrests – Albawaba.com
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