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Good news: Syrian woman released from detention

    July 14, 2014
    Yara Faris has been released following her arrest on 8 December 2013 for providing aid to internally displaced persons who had fled other areas of the country due to the fighting © Private

    A Syrian woman has been released from detention under the terms of a presidential amnesty, which pardons individuals charged with certain offences. She is one of the few political detainees known to have benefited from this amnesty thus far.

    What happened?

    Yara Faris was originally arrested by officers from Syria’s State Security agency on 8 December 2013 and held at a State Security branch in Damascus for the first ten days of her detention. She was then brought before an investigating judge of a criminal court in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, who referred her case to the Anti-Terrorism Court and moved her to Adra Prison.

    She had been accused of "financing acts of terrorism" under Article 4 of the 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law, apparently because she had been helping to provide food and assistance to internally displaced people who had fled from conflict elsewhere.

    Syria's 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law

    The Syrian Anti-Terrorism Law, enacted by President Bashar al-Assad in 2012 has been widely criticized by human rights groups due to its over-broad definition of "terrorism". According to information received by Amnesty International, political and other peaceful activists have been tried before the Anti-Terrorism Court, which is believed to have been set up to target opposition members within the country. It has also been reported that others detained under this law have been beaten with whips, sticks and electric shock rods while being held in military custody.

    This amnesty comes after President al-Assad’s controversial re-election after voting took place on 3 June. Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer and an ex-prisoner of conscience in Syria himself, said: "This is the most important amnesty since Hafez al-Assad (the president's father and predecessor) came to power nearly 45 years ago."

    However, this is not the first time an amnesty has been granted for prisoners detained under the Anti-Terror law.

    Yara Faris with her husband Maher Tahan who is still being held © Private

    After a similar amnesty in October 2012, Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International called on the Syrian Government to: "...free all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally. All others should be charged with a recognisable criminal offence and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards, or released."

    How did Amnesty respond?

    Yara was the subject of an Amnesty International Urgent Action which was sent out globally.

    It is believed that the attention on her case following the Urgent Action may have contributed to her release.

    We would like to thank everyone who took action on behalf of Yara – your efforts were greatly appreciated not only by Yara herself but everyone close to her.