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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 19:54 GMT 20:54 UK
Syria death 'could herald change'
Ghazi Kanaan, 6 June 2005
Former intelligence chief Ghazi Kanaan was a powerful figure
A prominent Syrian rights activist says the death of Syria's interior minister - apparently by suicide - could herald a more positive future for Syria.

Aktham Naisse told the BBC Ghazi Kanaan's death on Wednesday meant the loss of one link in a small but strong chain of individuals ruling Syria.

Mr Naisse - who won a prestigious human rights award this week - said it could spell the end of Syria's old guard.

An inquiry found Mr Kanaan had killed himself with his own gun in his office.

After examination of the body and questioning witnesses, Syria's chief prosecutor has closed the case.

Mr Kanaan was buried on Thursday after a huge funeral convoy from Damascus to his home town of Bhamra.

'Address issues'

The former intelligence chief was for years the most powerful figure in Lebanon during Syrian domination.

His death came a week before the UN is to publish a report into the killing of Lebanon's former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, which many Lebanese blamed on Syria although Damascus denies it.

Mr Naisse, one of the founding members of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, this week won the 2005 Martin Ennals award.

In his acceptance speech in Switzerland, he said there were important issues for human rights in Syria "and it is now time to address these issues in a democratic way".

These included releasing political prisoners, the return of exiles, investigating the fate of the missing and the issue of the Kurds, he said.

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