A Syrian court has sentenced exiled opposition figure Louay Hussein to six years in prison for "weakening national sentiment" and spreading false information, he said on Tuesday.
"My lawyer informed me on Monday that the criminal court sentenced me in absentia on December 28 to six years in prison," the 58-year-old author told AFP by phone from Madrid where he is now based.
He was forced to flee Syria for Spain in 2015, four years after founding the Building the Syrian State party, which had been tolerated by the regime.
Hussein said he believed the court ruling was intended to prevent him from playing any role in Syria's future as Russia leads negotiations on finding a way out of the country's war.
"The regime is seeking to block the way to a possible political role that I could play," he told AFP.
Hussein took part in a Syria peace congress in the Russian resort of Sochi that had been boycotted by many of the regime's key opponents.
Arrested on the Lebanese-Syrian border in November 2014, Hussein was released on bail in February 2015 and prevented from leaving the country.
But despite the travel ban, he escaped to Turkey in April 2015 and then on to Spain.
Hussein -- who shares President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite faith -- opposes the use of violence and advocates an internal struggle for democracy in Syria.
He said in 2015 that he had been forced to flee the war-torn country because his "life was in danger".
"There is no longer any possibility of agreement with the regime that has turned into a militia and is not able to reach political agreement with its opponents," he told AFP at the time.
© 2018 AFP