Wednesday, July 21, 2004

250 Political Prisoners Released

The latest joke going around Washington: What's the difference between Bashar al-Asad and Imad al-Allawi? Both are trying to rule fractious countries. Both want to make their countries capitalist. Both have given up Baathism; and both want to be on Washington's good side. What's the difference? One is busy rounding up political prisoners, while the other is letting them out of jail.

Syria releases 250 political prisoners - (United Press International)

Syria Tuesday released more than 250 political prisoners under a general amnesty, the second to be granted by President Bashar Assad in four years. Syrian human rights activist Anwar al-Bunni said authorities started releasing the prisoners two days ago, including 200 Islamic militants and 50 Kurds who were rounded up during Kurdish riots in northern Syria last March. "There are also an estimated 20 additional prisoners from various banned political parties who were released but we have no final figure," al-Bunni said. "The majority of those released belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood Organization and the Islamic Liberation Party." Authorities had arrested hundreds of Islamists in the late 1990s on suspicion of trying to infiltrate the military. Al-Bunni welcomed the release as "a good step" towards boosting human rights in Syria but stressed the "file of political prisoners should be resolved once and for all."
Arabic gives a breakdown of the amnestied prisoners:
In a statements issued yesterday the " Syrian human rights society" said that the Syrian authorities released 28 Islamic political prisoners with some of them were spending life imprisonment sentences since the 1980s, noting that all released persons belong to the banned " Muslim Brothers movement and the " Islamic liberation party." Lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni, one activist for human rights said that it is expected, according to a presidential amnesty on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of President Bashar al-Assad in power on July 15, 2000 to release 257 political prisoners in all most of them are Islamists. The Syrian authorities also released 100 Kurds detained following clashes that took place in march in al-Qamishli in the northern part of the country as well as several persons escaped the military service. Al-Bunni ruled out the release of Damascus spring' prisoners including the two Syrian parliamentarians Riad Seif and Mamoun al-Homsi and the economic expert Aref Dalila who were detained in 2001.
Another report claims that, "There are also an estimated 20 additional prisoners from various banned political parties who were released but we have no final figure, al-Bunni said." There are a number of conflicting reports about who exactly the prisoners are. They should be cleared up soon.

The IAEA and Mohammed el-Baradei say there is "No evidence for nuclear activity in Syria, contrary to early allegations by US Undersecretary of State, Bolton.

Israel threatens to attack Syria due to the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah following the crisis which started one day after the assassination of Ghaleb Awali. Washington has called for restraint from all sides.


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