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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Syrian dissident jailed for five years
Syrian parliament
Hopes for greater political freedom have been damaged
A leading Syrian opposition member of parliament has been jailed for five years on charges of trying to change the constitution by illegal means.

Riad Seif's conviction comes just two weeks after another opposition MP, Maamoun Homsi, was given the same sentence on identical charges.

President Bashar Assad
President Bashar Assad appears to be following his father's example
Both were arrested last year after calling for greater political freedom in Syria.

Several other opposition figures are due to be tried on similar charges in the state security court.

Correspondents say the sentences given to Mr Seif and Mr Homsi have damaged hopes that President Bashar Assad would allow greater freedom after decades of his late father's authoritarian rule.

Mr Seif was also given another six-month sentence to run concurrently on charges of forming a secret society and organising illegal meetings.

See also:

07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Syria
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