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Syria arrests pro-democracy former lawmaker: rights group

[JURIST] The Syrian government has detained former parliamentarian and dissident Riyad Sayf [MEIB profile], the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria (NOHR) said Tuesday. Sayf is a prominent member of the "Damascus Declaration" group, which in 2005 issued a declaration [text] urging Syria to embark on democratic transition and improve relations with Lebanon. In December, the Syrian government arrested nine members of the group [AP report] after it held a conference of opposition groups and activists in favor of democratic reform.

The Syrian government routinely issues travel bans against dissidents and last August, the US Department of State [official website] urged the Syrian government to lift a travel ban [press release] against Sayf, who is suffering from prostate cancer, so that he could seek medical treatment. Another pro-democracy activist, Kamal Labwani, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year for "encouraging attacks against Syria" after contacting a foreign country. Labwani met with White House officials during a visit to the US in 2005, and was arrested [JURIST reports] at the airport when he returned to Syria. AP has more.

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