Syrian President pardons prominent critic of the regime

Published November 16th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

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. (

© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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