Bassel Khartabil Safadi dead: One of Syria’s most famous activists has been executed in prison, widow confirms

One of Syria’s leading pro-free speech and democracy activists has been confirmed as secretly executed in a regime prison almost two years ago, his widow has said.

Palestinian-Syrian Bassel Khartabil Safadi, who was lauded internationally “for insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution”, was detained by the Syrian government in 2012, a year after Arab Spring protests first broke out. 

He was allowed sporadic contact with his family before disappearing from records at Damascus’ Adra prison in October 2015. His wife Noura Ghazi Safadi – who continued to campaign for his release – said in a Facebook post late on Tuesday she had received confirmation her husband had been executed shortly after she lost contact with him.  

Syrian couple married for 65 years still have each other despite losing everything in country’s war

“Words are difficult to come by while I am about to announce, on behalf of Bassel’s family and mine, the confirmation of the death sentence and execution of my husband,” she wrote.

“He was executed just days after he was taken from Adra prison in October 2015. This is the end that suits a hero like him.

“This is a loss for Syria. This is loss for Palestine. This is my loss.”

Mr Safadi, born to a Syrian mother and Palestinian father, was 34 at the time of his death. 

The advocate for freedom of speech, information and access to the internet was mourned by rights activists both inside Syria and internationally after news of his death broke.

Before the civil war erupted, Mr Safadi worked tirelessly to open up Syria – where censorship is rife – to internet access, bringing together engineers and democracy campaigners through his Aiki Lab project, and working on open software projects with Wikipedia and Creative Commons. 

After the revolution began his work became even more important, giving demonstrators and activists the tools to communicate and broadcast news through social media. Mr Safadi is “credited with opening up the internet in Syria and vastly extending online access and knowledge to the Syrian people,” a 2014 European Parliament report found. 

Foreign Policy magazine named him one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012, and the Index on Censorship awarded him the 2013 Digital Freedom Award.

Before his death he created the New Palmyra Project, which he worked on from prison. It uses open source information to digitally recreate the ancient city of Palmyra, which…

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