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Wednesday, April 20, 2005 

Coup leader returns to Syria

Colonel Jasem Elwan, the man who led the 1963 coup against the newly established Ba'ath government, has returned to Syria.

The Ba'ath party took power after a troublesome and short-lived union with Jamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt. They reasserted Syria's independence and took control of Syria away from Cairo.

But Elwan was one of the Syrian officers still loyal to Nasser. Unhappy with the rejection of Egyptian rule, he attempted to overthrow the Damascus government.

He failed, and fled to Egypt. He was sentenced to death in absentia.

But moderate young leader Bashar Al-Assad is trying to rewrite his father's history by encouraging the return of political refugees. Elwan was issued with a Syrian passport, and returned home. He was met at Damascus Airport by Human Rights Lawyer and opposition activist Hassan Abdel-Azim.

Ammar recently wrote that all exiles have a duty to return and reshape Syria, and play an active part in the politics of their country.

Abdel-Azim is now calling for all political prisoners to be released. Last month the Syrian Ambassador to the US said that by the summer Syria's prisons would not house a single political prisoner. At the same time the President released 312 Kurdish political detainees. Estimates put the number of political prisoners at between zero and six hundred.

Wonderful news

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