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Syria group urges Assad to release ailing chief | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A Syrian human rights group said it faxed a petition signed by more than 1,000 people to President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday calling for the release of the head of the group and other political prisoners.

The message by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria(AOHRS) seeking the release of its ailing president, Mohammad Raadoun, also urged Assad to end four decades of emergency law that allows for arbitrary arrests.

&#34We regard the closure of the dossier of political and arbitrary arrests and the lifting of the state of emergency …as a reaffirmation of the strength of the homeland,&#34 said the letter, a copy of which was sent to Reuters.

The petition was signed by 1,104 people.

Raadoun was arrested in May and is waiting for trial on charges of &#34spreading false news and (illegally) belonging to an international organisation&#34. A trial date is yet to be set.

The 60-year-old lawyer is a member of the Cairo-based Arab Organisation of Human Rights. The law requires state consent for membership in international political and social bodies.

&#34The letter comes at a time when Raadoun is suffering from illness due to inhumane confinement circumstances,&#34 Ammar Qurabi, the head of the AOHRS media department, told Reuters.

The group said on Sunday that Raadoun”s health had deteriorated due to a respiratory problem and urged the authorities to send him to hospital.

Activists have said that Raadoun”s arrest was believed to be linked to statements about the arrest of returning Muslim fundamantalist dissidents.

There is no independent count of political prisoners. Human rights activists say there are hundreds, but lawyers say estimates vary considerably depending on the criteria used to define political prisoners.