Syrian leader frees jailed students

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has freed two students jailed for opposing the goals of the revolution that brought his party to power in 1963, activists say.

    Bashar al-Asad came to power in 2000 following his father's death

    "The president has refused to ratify the ruling of the

    Supreme State Security Court ... . Therefore the two students were

    released," Syrian lawyer and human-rights activist Anwar al-Bunni said on Thursday .

    "When the sentence is not ratified it becomes void."

    The court jailed Muhannad al-Dibis and Muhammad Bashir Arab

    in February for three years after convicting them of "resisting

    the goals of the revolution", al-Bunni said.

    The students had led protests last year against a decree

    that ended a tradition of guaranteeing state jobs for all

    engineering school graduates. The decree was part of an economic

    and administrative reform programme.

    Kurds pardoned

    Hundreds of political prisoners have been released since al-Asad came to power in 2000 after his father's death. He has introduced a measure of political freedom and promised wide-ranging reform.

    On Wednesday, he pardoned 312 Syrian Kurds accused of taking

    part in riots.

    "These steps are signs that the state is responding in a way

    in which true (political) reform can be achieved. ... We are

    waiting for more fundamental reforms," al-Bunni said.

    He urged the state to annul a four-decade-old emergency law,

    order the release of all political prisoners and allow the

    creation of political parties.

    Estimates of the number of political prisoners in the Arab

    state vary between zero and hundreds, lawyers say. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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