The Syrian official new agency, Sana, quoted the Information Ministry as saying the detainees were released on Monday after questioning for "violating laws and regulations regarding the activities of some outlawed movements in Syria".

The eight, all members of the Jamal Atassi Forum, were released at noon, but a colleague, Ali Abdullah, who had been arrested a few days before them for reading the statement, was still in custody.

They were arrested last Tuesday.

Human-rights activists had said that the group members were arrested because they had read a statement issued by Sadr el-Din Bayanouni, the London-exiled leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, at a private gathering.

Activist Hassan Odat said the gathering had discussed various dissident political and cultural views, including the views of the Muslim Brotherhood.

More like dialogue

 

"We were not held in solitary confinement or otherwise

mistreated," Odat told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television.

 

"It was more like a dialogue than an investigation. Our

treatment was certainly not good, but 'reasonable.' ... But

in the end detention is detention."

 

"It was more like a dialogue than an investigation. Our

treatment was certainly not good, but 'reasonable.' ... But

in the end detention is detention"

Hassan Odat,
Syrian political activist

Nahhar said the group was reminded by authorities while in custody that the Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Syria and that reading a statement by the group was a violation of that ban.

 

He said Abdullah was still in custody but added: "We have been promised that he will be released very soon."

 

In 2001, the government cracked down on so-called political salons - political gatherings held in private homes during which Syrian intellectuals discussed democratic reforms in Syria.


The salons sprang up after President Bashar al-Assad took

office in 2000 and began to ease the totalitarian rule of

his late father, Hafez al-Assad, a period that came to be

known as the Damascus Spring.


Atassi's forum, which convenes once a month, survived the

crackdown, but its activities remained under government

supervision.