Prominent Syrian human rights lawyer released

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A prominent Syrian human rights lawyer, Haitham Maleh, has been released by the Syrian authorities. Mr Maleh was given a presidential pardon, says a Syrian human rights organisation.

Haitham Maleh was sentenced to three years in prison last July for "weakening the national moral principles". He was arrested after criticising the government on television. He had campaigned for many years for the country's state of emergency to be lifted. The state of emergency was imposed when the Baath Party took power in 1963. The leaders of the party also imposed repressive rule which has continued until today partly thanks to the repressive measure.

In 2006, Mr Maleh received a Dutch human rights award the Geuzenpenning - Beggars' Medal, which refers to 16th century freedom fighters and a World War II resistance group - the Geuzen. The medal is awarded every year to people or organisations who strive for democracy, or against dictatorship, racism and discrimination. In the 1980s, Haitham Maleh was a political prisoner.

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