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At 72, Mohammed al-Maghout, Syrian poet and playwright

DAMASCUS -- Mohammed al-Maghout, a Syrian poet and playwright known for his satirical depictions of authoritarian Arab regimes, died of a stroke at his home Monday. He was 72.

Mr. Maghout's poems, plays, and television and movie scripts criticized corruption in the region's governments and the restrictions they imposed on their citizens.

Some of his most famous screenplays starred Dureid Lahham, Syria's most famous comedian -- including the 1978 movie ''Al-Hudoud," or ''The Borders," about a man who loses his passport and becomes trapped between countries in a satire of Arab disunity.

''Literary and cultural circles in Syria and the Arab world today lost a giant among Arab men of letters and poets," said Syria's official news agency, SANA.

Hanna Abboud, another Syrian poet, described Mr. Maghout as ''the pen of rejection and disobedience, the pen that spread love and renounced hatred."

Despite his sharp satires, Mr. Maghout was allowed to continue writing under the authoritarian regimes of President Hafez Assad of Syria and his son Bashar Assad -- which gave some writers leeway to voice criticisms, as long as they did not specifically target the Damascus government.

The younger Assad even gave Mr. Maghout a medal in 2005.

Among his famous works are ''Sadness in the Moonlight" (1959-1960), ''A Chamber with Billion Walls" (1964), ''Happiness is not my Profession" (1970), ''The Hunch Bird" (1964), ''The Swing Novel" (1974), and ''The Flower Slayer" (2001).

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