Logo Prix Ludovic-Trarieux



18 November 2001

Release of  of Riad al-Turk 

a lawyer and the country's leading opposition figure

The prisoner of conscience and leading opposition activist, was released from 'Adra Prison following a personal Presidential amnesty on 16 November.


Riad al-Turk was nominated fot the Ludovic-Trarieux Award 1998


Riad al-Turk, 72, prisoner of conscience and leading opposition activist, he prisoner of conscience and leading opposition activist, was released from 'Adra Prison following a personal Presidential amnesty on 16 November. "This is a very positve step, but the Syrian authorities should not stop here. All other prisoners of conscience detained in August and September 2001, including 'Aref Dalilah, Hasan Sa'dun and Habib Saleh who are reportedly suffering from ill-health, should be released immediately."


Riad al-Turk is a leading member of the National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of various Syrian opposition groups and the First Secretary of the unauthorized Syrian Communist Party - Political Bureau. He had been detained as a prisoner of conscience without charge or trial and mostly incommunicado from 1980 to 1998. Riad al-Turk was re-arrested by the security forces on 1 September 2001 during a wider crackdown on government critics. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the Supreme State Security Court on charges including "attempting to change the constitution by illegal means" on 26 June 2002. Riad al-Turk is known to be suffering from diabetes as well as a heart condition.

A spokesman for Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) commented on news reports in several Arab newspapers about the deterioration of Mr. Riad Turk is health condition after he suffered a heart attack at his cell in the Adra prison facility, which impaired his speech ability and necessitated his transport to a hospital. The spokesmen expressed fear and concern for Mr. Turk, considering the harsh ordeal he is going through at seventy-one year of age, especially after spending seventeen years in the detention centers of the Syrian regime without even a trial and was only released in 1998 in a very frail health. The Syrian regime's security apparatus did not have any humane deterrent when they arrested Mr. Turk at his Doctor's clinic where he was undergoing treatment for a sudden heart attack he suffered in the coastal city of Tartous.


Riad al-Turkwas released from prison in 1998 after serving 17 years for his opposition to late President Hafez al-Assad.

In a written statement a group of 216 academics, journalists, filmmakers and writers have called for Mr Turk's release and said that those behind his arrest should themselves be brought to justice.

"We condemn this arbitrary and illegal measure and ask that Riad Turk be freed immediately and that those responsible for his arrest be prosecuted," the statement said.

"Mr Turk has on several occasions called for dialogue and reconciliation and his arrest cannot be justified," it added.

The Paris-based Arab Commission for Human Rights (CADH) has also called for Mr Turk's release.

"The CADH holds the Syrian authorities responsible for what may happen to Mr Turk ... and considers that the decision to arrest him crosses red lines in relations with the democratic opposition," it said in a statement.

Riad al-Turk, a lawyer in his late sixties, has been held since 1980 without charge or trial in connection with the unauthorized Communist Party Political Bureau (CPPB). He was tortured throughout his detention and is believed to be in poor health. Riad al-Turk has been held almost completely without access to the outside world since his arrest -- he was seen only three times by his family during his 18 years' incarceration.

In the past Mr Turk has called for human rights reform in Syria and a lifting of the martial law that has been in effect since 1963.

In August, in his first major address since his release from jail, Mr Turk attacked the "hereditary" succession which allowed Bashar al-Assad to succeed to the presidency in July of last year after the death of his father, Hafez.

Mr. al-Turk, the secretary-general of the Syrian Communist party, spent 17 years in prison for his vocal opposition to the late Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad.

The new president did implement several reforms and released 600 political prisoners belonging to several banned political parties, but diplomats say that further reform is being blocked by the government's old guard.

Amnesty International considers Riad al-Turk prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his peaceful expression of his political opinions. The organization is also concerned about his health.

HRIBB calls on the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release leading opposition figure Riad al-Turk , and ask for assurances he is well treated in custody and allowed immediate access to medical care and to his family and lawyers.


See also AI-index: MDE 24/028/2001 Publish date: 04/09/2001     

Click to close this window