PARIS - Riad Turk, a Syrian dissident who spent years in prison for his fierce opposition to the Damascus regime, has arrived in France after being exfiltrated out of the country by militants into neighboring Turkey, sources said Monday.
Turk, 88, had gone into hiding in recent years after being freed from his last spell in jail in 2002, for declaring “the dictator is dead” after the death of former President Hafez Assad.
In total he spent 17 years imprisoned, often without trial, on claims of various offenses under Hafez Assad and later his son, Bashar, when he became Syrian president.
“He arrived in France two or three days ago,” a Syrian opposition figure now living in Paris said, calling it “very good news.”
Another Syrian source, exiled in France, also confirmed Turk’s arrival, first reported in the Lebanese daily L’Orient- Le Jour.
According to the Syrian journalist Ala Atassi, quoted by the newspaper, Turk “was able to leave Syria thanks to militants who helped him reach the Syria-Turkey border, and is now safe and sound in France,” where one of his daughters lives.
Turk was the longtime leader of the dissident Syrian Communist Party-Political Bureau, which was outlawed by Bashar Assad and later renamed the Syrian Democratic People’s Party.
He quickly supported the peaceful opposition which broke out in 2011 and later backed the Syrian National Council which brought together opponents of Assad as the country’s civil war intensified.
“Our revolution is peaceful, popular and rejects sectarianism, and the Syrian people are one,” he declared in October 2011.
“There will be no compromise nor negotiations about our goal of toppling this despotic regime.”