Activists Ask Syria to Free Detainees

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Dahi Hassan, Arab News

Published — Thursday 9 June 2005

Last Update 9 June 2005 3:00 am

DAMASCUS, 9 June 2005 — More than 200 Syrian intellectuals and activists yesterday sought the release of the country’s political detainees and introduction of drastic reforms that would bring about wider freedom and liberties.

The plea was made to the delegates taking part in the 10th Baath Party Congress being held at the Umayyad Palace here.

“The delegates discussed the message sent to them by some Syrian intellectuals and activists. Issues pertaining to lifting the 1963 Emergency Law, introducing more political reform, and other vital issues have been raised by the participants in the Congress during the past three days,” said Syrian Expatriate Minister and the congress’ spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban.

“To the participants in the 10th Congress of the Baath party, let the Damascus Spring bloom and set free its flowers,” said the message to the party in a clear reference to the political activists and the two MPs who had been put in jail following their calls for reforms in the country few years back.

“Delegates taking part in debates in the congress’ three political, economic, and organizational committees for the past three days have dealt with full frankness, openness, and transparency with all issues brought to the table. Reforms and fighting corruption was among the major issues and topics discussed,” Shaaban said, adding that the Congress would announce its recommendations in the final session to be held here later today.

Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the US President George W. Bush that maintaining dialogue with Syria is crucial despite US criticism of Turkey’s neighbor. Turkey has repeatedly expressed opposition to any military operation against Syria and Erdogan said he stressed the need for dialogue with Syria.

“It can make an opening toward democracy, I expect this from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad. I explained this to President Bush on my first trip there,” Erdogan said.

In another development, Syrians no longer need to check with the government first if they want to get married, open a hair salon or go to university, according to an official order recently made public.

Issued by the Baath party and distributed to government security branches, the order instructs forces to “not intervene in the social and cultural lives of citizens” and includes a list of 67 instances in which Syrians are now more free.

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