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April 21, 2015

Louay Hussein allegedly flees Syria

A member of the dissident's party accused Hussein of escaping to Turkey and denounced the action.

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Louay Hussein. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

BEIRUT – Top Syrian dissident Louay Hussein has allegedly defied a regime-imposed travel ban and fled Syria days before a court was set to pass down a verdict against him.

 

A top official in Hussein’s Building the Syria State (BSS) movement—an opposition group tolerated by the regime—wrote on Facebook that the dissident and his deputy, Mona Ghanem, were in Turkey.

 

“It has come to my knowledge that BSS leader Louay Hussein and his deputy Mona Ghanem reached Turkey illegally after a […] visit to the town of Ras al-Ayn with several Kurdish forces,” the party’s vice president, Anas Joudeh, wrote Sunday on Facebook.

 

“I deny my knowledge of the visit and the illegal exit to Turkey. I denounce this individual action by Mr. Hussein and Ms. Ghanem, and I declare that I am not responsible […] for any decision, action or meeting carried out by the aforementioned people,” he added.

 

“I have no relation to [any of these actions] whatsoever.”

 

Ghanem fired back at Joudeh’s statements, but only denied that she was outside of Syria “illegally” and made no mention of Hussein’s whereabouts.

 

“A BSS member has claimed that I am outside the country illegally despite the fact that everyone knows I had decided to travel out of the country,” she wrote on Facebook.

 

“I am surprised [to hear] this […] fabrication from a person inside the party, especially as I am not banned from travelling,” she added.

 

“The goal of everything written on the [Facebook] page of that member is to defame the party and break up its ranks to serve certain actors.”

 

For his part, Hussein publicly revealed Sunday that he had been visiting the Kurdish-populated regions of northeastern Syria to “observe how matters work in the area… in the absence the regime’s military and security [apparatuses].”

 

The dissident announced on his Facebook page that he had visited the towns of Qamishli, Amouda and Ras al-Ayn (Sere Kaniye in Kurdish), all of which lie along Syria’s border with Turkey.

 

Early on Sunday morning, the pro-regime Sham FM reported that Hussein had fled from Syrian territory to Turkey via illegal crossings.

 

The site also quoted a statement by the party, announcing that it had frozen all of its activities in Syria.

 

“For numerous security reasons BSS has had to freeze all its activities in inside Syrian territory,” the statement read.

 

“In the coming period [the party] will make do with some activities outside the country until it resumes full activity after announcing its new headquarters.”

 

Amid the deepening mystery over the matter, a post on BSS’ Twitter feed contains a link to the statement on the party’s Facebook page, but it appears to have been removed.

 

Legal problems

 

Hussein’s alleged escape comes amid his growing legal problems in Syria, where the regime’s judiciary is set to issue a ruling that could see him returned to prison.

 

The opposition figure had been detained by Syrian authorities in November 2014 along the Syrian-Lebanese border as he was en-route to visit family in Spain and charged with “weakening national sentiment.”

 

Hussein, who has been incarcerated twice in Syria, was transferred to Adra Prison outside of Damascus, where he was held until being released on bail in late February and banned from travel outside the country.

 

He sought to attend the mid-April Moscow talks, which brought together opposition and regime figures, but the Syrian government denied his request and maintained its travel ban ahead of the judiciary’s final verdict against him, which is expected on April 29.

 

Hussein has a long history of activism against the Baathist regime in Syria, first being jailed in 1984 for his membership in the Communist Action Party, which opposed Hafez al-Assad’s rule, according to a profile prepared by The Syrian Observer.

 

Following his release in 1991, he began a career in writing and published a memoir about his experiences in prison.

 

The activist founded a publishing house in 1996 and has penned a number of articles for Lebanese newspapers criticizing Syria’s ruling authorities. 

 

Following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, Hussein was arrested for his criticism of the regime but was released shortly afterwards and founded the BSS, which the regime has allowed to operate in Syria along with other tolerated opposition group. 

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