Five Ahwazi Arabs were released in Damascus on Friday, a week after they were arrested by the Syrian authorities.
Human rights groups had voiced concern that Syria would transfer the men, who included Ali Mazraeh of the separatist Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Popular Front (ADPF), to custody in Iran where they would be tortured and possibly killed. Mazraeh fled to Syria during the Iran-Iraq War about 20 years ago and has lived there as a refugee ever since.
The ADPF had claimed it was involved in the April intifada against the Iranian government in Khuzestan, which had led to the deaths of up to 160 Ahwazi Arabs at the hands of the security services. Syria had been holding the men at the request of Tehran. However, at least three of those held in Syrian custody had no association with the group and were in Damascus to study.
The release of all five men cam after intense lobbying pressure from human rights organisations and governments in the Gulf region.