Alkarama have reported that Ma’an Aqil and Abdul Rahman Koki have been freed by the Syrian government within days of each other.
Aqil, a journalist in Damascus, was arrested on 22 November 2009 and was detained arbitrarily for three months (I blogged about his detention in December). Alkarama report that he was released Tuesday 23 February 2010.
Yesterday, Alkarama reported that Abdul Rahman Koki was released on Tuesday 16 February 2010, following a presidential pardon.
In both cases Alkarama had referred the cases to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Reporters Sans Frontières also report that two other journalists, Ali Taha and Ali Ahmed, have also been released after weeks of arbitrary detention.
Whilst being cautious not to overstate the significance of these releases, they offer a faint glimmer of hope in so far as the Syrian regime appears willing to free individuals who have clearly been prepared to challenge the government domestically and, in Koki’s case, be directly critical of it. As Alkarama notes, we must take this opportunity to remind the Syrian authorities of their responsibility towards international human rights law and urge them to release all prisoners of conscience, including Kamal al-Labwani, Hytham al-Maleh and Anwar al-Bunni.