Syria: Releases should include all prisoners of conscience

'This positive step should immediately be followed by the release of all remaining prisoners of conscience, including the leading member of the banned Party for Communist Action (PCA) Abd al-Aziz al-Khayyir who is serving a 22-year prison term imposed after an unfair trial, and the ten prisoners of conscience detained in August and September,' said Amnesty International.

Among the ten are 71-year-old lawyer Riad al-Turk and independent members of the Syrian National Assembly Riad Seif and Maamun Homsi.

One of the freed prisoners, 'Adil Isma'il, is a member of the unauthorised Democratic Ba'th party, a rival wing to the ruling Ba'th party. The other eight are members of the banned Party for Communist Action (PCA). They are Wajih Ghanim, Akram al-Bunni, Bahjat Sha'bu, Rashid Sattuf, Abbas Abbas, Muhammad Mi'mmar, Nazar Maradni, 'Adnan Mahfudh.

'For many years Amnesty International has been campaigning for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience, fair trials for political prisoners, and investigations into all cases of 'disappearances',' the human rights organisation said. 'In November of last year the organisation welcomed the release of about 600 prisoners of conscience. However, many more are still in jail. And they should be released at once,' Amnesty International concluded.

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