President Bashar Assad granted an amnesty to 190 political prisoners Wednesday to mark the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported. The agency said the amnesty aimed to consolidate national unity and that similar measures would follow.
Those covered by the amnesty include Mohammad Raadoun, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights who was arrested in May, and pro-democracy activist Ali Abdullah, also jailed in May for reading a statement issued by the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
It was unclear who the remaining prisoners were. Human rights activists say more than 2,500 political prisoners are detained in Syria.
One activist, Haitham Maleh of the Human Rights Association in Syria, said that while Wednesday's amnesty was "a good step, it's not enough."
"This whole issue should end, especially now that Syria is coming under pressure," he said, referring to Monday's U.N. Security Council resolution, which demands Syria cooperate fully with the U.N. investigation into the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The resolution warned Syria of further measures if it holds anything back from the investigation.
"Now is the time for national unity. President Assad should turn a new page," Maleh added.
Fellow activist Ammar Qorba said the measure "builds trust between the political leadership and Syrian society and this helps Syria face the challenges it is facing."
Activists and other Syrians have been urging Assad to introduce reform to deflect pressure from the U.N. probe, which issued an interim report last month naming members of the president's inner circle, the AP reminds.
The SANA agency said the amnesty, issued a day before the feast that marks the end of the Ramadan month, "came in the framework of comprehensive reform that aims at consolidating the national unity that forms the basis of our social framework and serves our national interests."