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Syrian Economist ’Aref Dalila Released After More Than Six Years in Prison
August 12, 2008

On August 7, 2008, Syrian economist ’Aref Dalila was granted a presidential pardon on grounds of poor health. Soon after his release from prison, he told the BBC that his views have not changed, that he will continue to voice his opinions, and that his release is not conditional on any pledge of silence. Held in solitary confinement for the duration of his imprisonment, Dr. Dalila served more than six years of a ten-year sentence.

Dr. Dalila’s health deteriorated dramatically during his years in prison, particularly after he had a stroke in 2006 that left him numb on the left side of his body and caused his left hand and foot to swell. He suffers from numerous ailments, including heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Shortly after his release, Dr. Dalila told the Associated Press, “I have come back to life again.”

A former dean of the Faculty of Economics at Aleppo University, Dr. Dalila was one of a group of ten civil society leaders who were arrested in September 2001 for their participation in a political forum where they discussed the creation of a multi-party system and an end to martial law in Syria. The arrest of this group marked the end of the “Damascus Spring,” a period of about a year at the beginning of Bashar al-Assad’s presidency when Syrian authorities tacitly allowed a margin of freedom of expression. Following proceedings before the State Supreme Security Court that failed to meet international fair trial standards, Dr. Dalila and the others in the group were convicted of attempting to change the constitution by illegal means, inciting armed rebellion, and disseminating false information about the government. He was considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience.

We thank the many CHR correspondents and H.R. Network participants who responded to our alerts by writing more than 50 letters to the Syrian authorities appealing for Dr. Dalila’s release.