Syrian President pardons prominent critic of the regime
Syria's President Bashar Assad freed a 74-year-old Syrian dissident Saturday, pardoning him on humanitarian grounds, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Riyadh al-Turk, a lawyer, was sentenced in June to 30 months in prison for attempting to change the constitution.
The Syrian president ordered the release of al-Turk for "humanitarian reasons," the Syrian agency said. He suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.
"It was a surprising and good news for a human being to regain his freedom," al-Turk told The Associated Press following his release.
Al-Turk's wife, Asma, who lives in Homs, said her husband had called her from Damascus to confirm his release. Al-Turk and nine other dissidents, including two members of parliament, were detained during a government crackdown on activists in August and September last year.
He was arrested for telling a symposium in Damascus that the 30-year rule of Bashar Assad's father, Hafez Assad, was characterized by stagnation in the social, political and economic fields.
Al Turk, the former secretary general of the Syrian communist party -- political bureau, spent 17 years in prison under Hafez Assad and was released in 1998.
Human rights activist Aktham Naisse welcomed the release "as a positive step," and said he hopes the nine other dissidents will be freed. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)