Turkish-backed Syrian forces release rebel commander following social media campaign
Military police belonging to the opposition "Syrian Interim Government" on Monday released a rebel commander who had been held in captivity for nearly three years.
The Turkey-backed forces in the city of Azaz, north of Aleppo, released the leader of the Association of Martyrs of Al-Sharqiya rebel faction Abdul Rahman Al-Muhaimeed, commonly known as Abu Khawla Muhassan.
The city has been under the control of Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters since 2016.
Sources familiar with Muhassan's case told The New Arab's Arabic language service that an appeals court had released the rebel commander after he served a total of two years and nine months in prison - just over half the period he was originally sentenced to.
Muhassan was originally detained by military police at a checkpoint outside Azaz on 28 May 2019. He was sentenced by a court to five years in prison for operating outside the authority of the Turkish-backed "Syrian National Army".
Syrian activists previously held several social media campaigns calling for Muhassan's release.
In July 2018, the rebel commander and his forces stormed the frontline town of Tadef near Azaz, capturing it in its entirety.
Syrian social media users said that Abu Khawla Muhassen had been imprisoned for fighting Assad regime forces and 'liberating' the town of Tadef
He said that this was to relieve pressure on the opposition-held area of Daraa in southern Syrian, which was then under attack by regime and Russian forces.
Rebel forces later withdrew from parts of Tadef, which is today divided between regime and former opposition fighters, and Muhassan accused other rebel commanders of "treason" over the withdrawal.
He later announced the formation of the "Association of Martyrs of Al-Sharqiya" rebel faction. The Turkish-backed Syrian National Army called on him to dissolve the faction and hand over its weapons.
He said at the time that he would comply with the request, due to health problems he was suffering.