INTERVIEW-Freed Syrian activist says Assad reform not serious

Tue Apr 5, 2011 5:13pm GMT

* Atassi arrested at March 16 protest, freed Sunday

* Challenges Baathist slogan of Bashar "father of nation"

* Says leading political prisoners still in jail

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN, April 5 (Reuters) - When Syrian activist Suhair al-Atassi raised a poster of a political prisoner in Damascus last month secret police dragged her away by the hair and a court charged her with "sowing division" among the nation.

"It was surreal. I was dragged for what felt like the length of two streets. The apparatchiks looked at me as if I was not their compatriot. They kept shouting that I was an Israeli spy," Atassi said in an interview from the Syrian capital.

Mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad have swept Syria in recent weeks, taking their cue from popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

Assad has responded to the protests with a mixture of force and promises of reform including studying ways to lift emergency law, which has been used to justify arbitrary arrests and given unchecked power to the security apparatus.   Continued...

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