Syria on Thursday freed one of the country's most prominent political prisoners after nearly seven years in prison. "I have come back to life again," Aref Dalila, a former head of economics at Damascus University, told The Associated Press shortly after his release.
Dalila's brother, Mustafa, said the release was an amnesty by President Bashar Assad. Last month, more than two dozen Syrian and Arab human rights groups called on authorities to release him, saying his health was deteriorating.
Dalila, 68, was detained in 2001 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of attempting to change the Syrian constitution, inciting armed rebellion and spreading false information. He had been an outspoken critic of the government and its economic policies, and was sacked from Damascus University in 1998 for denouncing corruption and mismanagement.
While in prison, Dalila is said to have suffered from an inflammation of the veins. He and two other detainees were hospitalized in 2002 after other political prisoners held a hunger strike demanding Dalila be treated.
Dalila said Thursday his health is good but "needs care" and that he would continue his activism. "We will go back to our work and role as citizens who are concerned about public affairs in their country," he said.