Amnesty International Calls for Syria to Free Political Prisoners

Published June 28th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Amnesty International Tuesday called on Syrian president-designate Bashar Assad and the country's new leadership to free an estimated 1,500 political prisoners, unless they are retried fairly, and to carry out judicial and legislative reform. 

"Today, on the 20th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of prisoners in Tadmur prison, we call on the Syrian government to dedicate itself to building a state of law and human rights," Amnesty said in a statement received in Nicosia. 

The Tadmur massacre took place on June 27th, 1980, a day after an attempted assassination of the late president Hafez Assad, Bashar's father. Between 500 and 1,000 prisoners, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, were killed in their cells and buried in a mass grave outside the prison. 

Amnesty said in its statement that "resolution of the issue of political prisoners should be considered of first importance." 

It said thousands of detainees have "disappeared," adding that "at least 1,500 are believed to remain," most of them still detained in secret without access to families. 

"We are making an urgent call to the new Syrian Government to reexamine the case of every person detained for political or security offences and to release, after so many years, all those detained for their beliefs, all those who have been detained for years without trials and all others, unless they are given a fair and public trial according to international standards with all rights to a defense," the statement said. 

Amnesty said the Syrian government had recently stated that no political prisoners were being held. 

However, the human rights organization said that in 1997 it gave the government a list of 661 political detainees and that it was prepared to discuss each case with the government. 

"Unfortunately, they were not ready to discuss the lists," Amnesty said. "We would be ready to come back at any time." - NICOSIA (AFP) 


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