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Rice urges Syria to release jailed activists, cooperate with Hariri probe

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] Saturday criticised [press release] Syria [JURIST news archive] for its "arbitrary detention" of human rights activists "including Kamal Labwani and all the prisoners of conscience from the Damascus Spring" during a conference in Bahrain attended by Arab leaders. The Damascus Spring [Wikipedia backgrounder] followed the June 2000 death of President Hafez al-Assad, and was a period when Syrians began to actively discuss politics and society as never before; Labwani, a doctor and an activist highly critical of Syria's human rights record, was arrested by Syrian officials following a trip to the US where he met with senior officials. On Friday, the first day of her Middle East trip, Rice told reporters that Syria "should stop trying to negotiate and cooperate" with the ongoing investigation of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. On Wednesday, Syria invited [JURIST report] Detlev Mehlis, the head of the UN investigation [UN materials] into the assassination, to Damascus to discuss Syria's cooperation with the UN probe. Reuters has more.

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