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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 18:52 GMT
Syria frees political detainees
Syrian man smoking in a cafe
Many Syrians have been waiting patiently for change
The Syrian authorities say they have released 112 political prisoners under a presidential amnesty.

It is reported to be the biggest single amnesty for three years. The official Sana news agency said it was part of an "open and tolerant policy".

Those freed are thought be Islamist activists from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The head of the Syria's Human Rights Association welcomed the move, but said President Bashar al-Assad should have freed all political detainees.

Haitham al-Maleh said some of those set free had been held for more than 10 years.

"It is not acceptable that a person should be detained for his opinions," Mr Maleh said.

It is thought that some 600 political prisoners are still held in Syrian jails.

BBC correspondent Jon Leyne says that while human rights activists have welcomed the releases, they may also be wary of them.

When Mr Assad took over the presidency in 2000, he released hundreds of political prisoners, but clamped down again on dissent within a few months.


SEE ALSO:
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28 Sep 04 |  Middle East
Palestinians meet Syria's Assad
07 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Sharon rejects talks with Syria
02 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Country profile: Syria
11 Aug 04 |  Country profiles
Syrians revel in political theatre
07 Oct 04 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Assad reshuffles Syrian cabinet
04 Oct 04 |  Middle East


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