Syrian National Coalition elects Riad Seif as new head
Seif, who hails from Damascus, served as a parliamentarian under both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez before him, and is one of the few lawmakers to have openly criticised the regime and its economic policies.
The seventy-year-old won 58 votes from the Istanbul-based National Coalition's 102 members, ahead of the younger Khaled Khoja.
Seif will replace current head Anas al-Abdeh, who was elected in March 2016, while National Coalition members elected Abdulrahman Mustafa and Salwa Ktaw as vice presidents.
Seif was born into a modest family and began working in a textiles factory at age 12 before going on to become a prominent businessman.
In 2001, he was arrested a day after hosting a seminar on political reform in his home. Amnesty International issued an urgent alert for his release, stating that he had been arrested "solely for his opinions and peaceful opposition activities."
He was jailed for a total of eight years for organizing weekly discussions on human rights and fled Syria in June 2012. A year later he went on to serve as vice-president of the National Coalition.
Seif was arrested again in 2008 after another meeting at his home and charged with "weakening national sentiment", spreading "false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country," and membership of an organization seeking to change the "structure of the state," Human Rights Watch reported.
The war in Syria erupted in 2011 when regime forces brutally put down anti-government protests.
The fighting has cost nearly 500,000 lives, the vast majority victims of regime bombing.