SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It was reported this week that one of Syria's leading activists for democracy and free speech has been executed by the government, apparently two years ago. Bassel Khartabil Safadi was taken into custody in 2012, just after the first protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad. He was moved from the Adra prison in Damascus in 2015 and essentially disappeared from the records there. His wife said on Facebook that she's learned, quote, "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."
Bassel Safadi was a kind of Thomas Paine for the Internet age. He conjured ways to evade censorship and report news out of Syria to the world and let Syrians speak with each other. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 global thinkers of 2012. The Syrian Network for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch say that tens of thousands of activists have disappeared into Syria's prison. Bassel Khartabil Safadi would have been 34 years old when he died. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.