Syria releases leading activist after more than three years in prison

Friday 07/08/2015
Arrested in February 2012 along with two colleagues

BEIRUT - Prominent Syrian rights defender Mazen Darwish has been released after more than three years in prison pending a verdict in his case later this month, his wife said Monday.
"He has been freed ahead of a final verdict in his case on August 21," Darwish's wife Yara Bader said.
The leading journalist and rights activist was arrested in February 2012 along with two colleagues from his Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.
The three were accused of "promoting terrorist acts" and held despite repeated calls from media and rights groups for their release.
They were moved between prisons several times, and court dates in their case were regularly postponed.
Darwish's colleagues Hussein Ghreir and Hani al-Zaitani were released last month in an amnesty announced as a gesture for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Bader said Darwish, who is in his early 40s, was supposed to benefit from the same amnesty, but his release was delayed.
Darwish has received multiple awards in acknowledgement of his work, including, in May, UNESCO's annual press freedom prize.
His wife accepted the award on his behalf, saying it was dedicated to his children in the hope they would grow up in a free Syria.
"We need a time to learn how to listen to people who have different opinions," she said.
"Mazen has already forgiven those who tortured him almost to death."