January 19, 2006


Syria Frees 5 Political Activists: Released Opposition Leader to Create 'New Liberal Party' (Rhonda Roumani, 1/19/06, The Washington Post)

Riad Seif, one of the country's boldest and most charismatic opposition figures, was arrested in 2001 along with nine other activists in a crackdown on democracy forums that emerged shortly after President Bashar Assad came to power in 2000. The forums marked a period of ferment dubbed the Damascus Spring, in which Syrians gathered freely for the first time in decades to demand greater democracy and an end to corruption.

On Wednesday, without advance notice, the government freed Seif along with another parliament member, Mamoun Homsi, and opposition figures Walid Bunni, Habib Issa and Fawaz Tello. Each had been sentenced to five years in prison for violating the constitution and inciting sectarian strife. They were released seven months before their terms ended.

"We have arrived at the point where we really have to change," Seif said after his release. "There is no way to continue as it is now. We want to build, as soon as possible, democracy in Syria, because that is the only way to save the country and to avoid catastrophe."

When totalitarians lose the will to kill opponents they fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2006 8:03 AM
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