Syrian authorities released on Tuesday a 75-year-old activist who has been on hunger strike since his arrest 11 days ago for calling for Egyptian-style mass protests, human rights activists said.
Ghassan al-Najjar, an engineer who spent 12 years as a political prisoner for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood two decades ago, was set free after spending three days in hospital, they said.
"His health deteriorated. Najjar has heart disease and it seems that they did not want him to die in prison," said one rights activist, who contacted Najjar after his release.
"The only thing he said on the phone was that he was alive," the activist added.
Al-Najjar leads a small group called the Islamic Democratic Current. He was arrested at his home in the northern city of Aleppo on Feb. 2.
Najjar called on the Internet for rallies after Friday prayers on Feb. 4 in public squares in protest against the government, which has been controlled by the Baath Party for the last 50 years.
Security was tightened and no protests took place. Another opposition figure criticised Najjar for giving the protest call a religious tone, in a society of many sects and ethnic groups.
The authorities have intensified a long-running campaign of arrests of dissidents and opposition figures since mass protests overthrew the autocratic rulers of Tunisia last month and Egypt last week.
Tal al-Molouhi, a schoolgirl who said in postings on the Internet that she longed for a role in shaping the direction of Syria, was sentenced on Monday by a special security court to five years' jail for revealing information to a foreign country.
Molouhi was arrested in 2009 when she was 18.
The United States said Molouhi, who also wrote articles asking President Barack Obama to support the Palestinian cause, must be released and that espionage-related charges against her were baseless.
In a separate case Abbas Abbas, a 69-year-old leftist who had already spent 15 years as a political prisoner, was sentenced to more than seven years in jail last month on charges of "weakening national morale."
President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed the possibility of the Arab world's political upheaval spreading to Syria.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Şubat 2011, 13:08