08/08/2008, 00.00
SYRIA
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Aref Dalila, leader of "Damascus Spring", freed after seven years

The economist, a representative of a movement calling for freedom and democracy, had been sentenced to 10 years for attempting to change the Syrian constitution, inciting armed rebellion, and spreading false information.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - After seven years in prison, the Damascus authorities have freed one of the most famous Syrian dissidents, Aref Dalila, 68, an economist. Dalila was the leader of the "Damascus Spring", a movement of intellectuals and representatives in opposition against one-party rule and in favor of greater freedom and democracy. Its emergence in 2000 was an effect of the hope that accompanied the rise to power of the current president, Bashar Al Assad.

In 2001, the police suppressed the movement and arrested Dalila and other members of the group. The economist was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to change the Syrian constitution, inciting armed rebellion, and spreading false information.

Now, according to Syria's National Organisation for Human Rights (NOHR), the dissident has obtained "presidential pardon" and has been released from prison. He has been seen, together with his family, in the port city of Latakia. Ammar Qurabi of the NOHR says that he is in good health. His lawyer, Muhannad Al Hassani, has expressed the hope that "this will be the beginning of freedom for the rest of the prisoners of conscience in Syria".

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