A deputy in Lebanon's parliament called on Syria's new President Bashar al-Assad Saturday to free the estimated 200 Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails for political reasons.
"We ask for the opening of the file on Lebanese held in Syrian prisons in order to clear up their fate and determine the causes for their detention and their arrests," said Boutros Harb, a Maronite Christian MP.
"If they are guilty of crimes or misdemeanors, they should be brought before the appropriate Lebanese courts, but if they are held for political reasons they should be freed," Harb said in a statement.
Praising Assad's decision to release a group of Syrian political prisoners, Harb said that "if he takes such a decision concerning Lebanese prisoners, Assad will confirm his reformist orientation, particularly with regard to a redefinition of Lebanese-Syrian relations."
Harb -- a major figure in the Maronite community, Lebanon's largest Christian denomination and the most influential before the Syrian military entered Lebanon two decades ago -- said that the "special relationship between Lebanon and Syria must be based on respect for the uniqueness, independence, sovereignty and free political decision-making of each country."
According to the London-based human rights group Amnesty International, 228 Lebanese are still imprisoned in Syria, most of them without trial and some of them held for more than 15 years. The prisoners are isolated from the rest of the world and their detentions are unrecognized by Syrian authorities, Amnesty charges – BEIRUT (AFP)
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