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Thursday, October 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report: Syrian diplomats threaten protesters against Assad living abroad

LONDON — The regime of President Bashar Assad has used Syrian diplomats to threaten opponents abroad, a report said.


Amnesty International asserted that Syrian diplomats and others with immunity from foreign prosecution have been warning dissidents that their families in Syria would be attacked. In a report, the London-based group documented more than 30 Syrian opposition activists in eight countries who have been threatened by representatives of Assad, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Many have been filmed and orally intimidated while taking part in protests outside Syrian embassies, while some have been threatened, including with death threats, or physically attacked by individuals believed to be connected to the Syrian regime," the report, titled "The Long Reach of the Mukhabarat," said.

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The report, released in October 2011, said relatives of Syrian dissidents abroad have been detained and tortured. Amnesty said Western countries have also failed to stop the intimidation by Syrian diplomats, including visits to the homes of dissidents.

In Canada, Syrian diplomats were said to have pressured the Syrian community to attend pro-Assad demonstrations. In the United States, anti-Assad demonstrators were filmed and their relatives in Syria threatened.

"Among the Syrian protesters there are people put amongst us who are working with the embassy [in Washington]," Mohammed Al Abdullah, an opposition activist, told Amnesty. "Sometimes you can see one with an earpiece or microphone, saying something like 'Film that man in the red shirt.' "

In France, Syrian embassy staffers were said to have attacked opposition protesters. One of the victims, Rabee Al Hayek, said about 10 people attacked an anti-Assad demonstration in Paris on Aug. 26 and avoided arrest when they told police they possessed diplomatic immunity.

"At that time there were three plain-clothed police officers there, and they called other police who quickly arrived," Al Hayek recalled. "They told us to be calm, that the police will be in control of the matter, and that two of the aggressors have diplomatic passports and therefore no action can be done towards those two."

In Britain, authorities have failed to stop visits to and threats by Syrian embassy staffers against opposition activists. Amnesty said Syrian representatives warned the dissidents that they would be executed if they return to their homeland.

"According to Syrians living in the UK, the Syrian authorities have waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against them and family members in Syria," the report said. "They have told Amnesty International that Syrian embassy staff have filmed and photographed protests outside the embassy and protesters who have been invited inside the embassy; telephoned protesters and visited them at their homes in the UK and made threats against them, including that they would face the death penalty on return to Syria and that their families in Syria would be harmed; and encouraged them to spread pro-regime propaganda and join pro-regime rallies."

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