A man walks past Syrian soldiers as he arrived from the rebel held suburb of Moadamiyeh to the government held territory Tuesday Oct. 29, 2013 in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
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A high-profile Syrian activist who handed himself in to regime security as part of a truce deal in the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamieh has been released after 17 days held by security officials, in what could be seen as a trust-building exercise for broader negotiations.The opposition media activist, using the name Qusai Zakarya, arrived in Beirut in the early hours of Wednesday morning after weeks of negotiations with senior military officials in Damascus.Zakarya, a former hotel employee and English language student, had emerged as a vocal opponent to the Assad regime, drawing attention to the plight of residents living under harsh government siege conditions in rebel-held Moadamieh for over 15 months.Opposition activists launched a massive media campaign after days went by without any word from Zakarya, held under tight security in a Damascus hotel. With peace talks underway in Geneva between opposition and regime officials and a series of truce deals implemented in suburbs of the capital, part of what the Syrian government is promoting as a "National Reconciliation" campaign, Zakarya's case came to be seen as a litmus test for successful negotiations and a measure of regime sincerity.
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