Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  

Syria frees scores of political prisoners

Syrian authorities have released almost 100 political prisoners, including a communist leader who was incarcerated for almost 30 years, a human rights lawyer said yesterday.

"Fifty-five political prisoners were released on Tuesday, including Imad Shiha, in addition to 36 released on Monday," lawyer Anwar Bunni told AFP.

The 51-year-old Shiha, a member of the Arab Communist organisation, was imprisoned in 1975. He was the country's longest-serving political prisoner.

A total of 251 political prisoners, including a number of former militants from the Muslim Brotherhood, have been freed in the past two weeks, Bunni said.

The lawyer called on Damascus to "quickly settle the question of political prisoners by releasing them".

Human rights groups have repeatedly called for the release of political prisoners and the abolition of Syria's emergency law, in place since 1963.