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Rights group reveals torture of relatives of ex-pat Syrian activists

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Summary of story from The Guardian, October 3, 2011

Rights group Amnesty International reports that the Syrian government has been accused of torturing relatives of Syrians protesting overseas in an attempt to silence international criticism of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The report, “The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat” [the Syrian secret police], details more than 30 cases of direct and indirect intimidation of activists in Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA.

One pro-reform activist living in Sweden said her activities on the internet and the streets of Stockholm had attracted the attention of the Syrian authorities.

Earlier this year she received a letter in Arabic using her maiden name, warning her: “Keep quiet or neither you, nor your family in Syria is safe.”

Her brother was arrested in Damascus shortly afterwards. Both his hands were broken and he was forced to promise that the family would disown his sister.

Amnesty International is calling on the Syrian government to immediately end its harassment of protesters and their families, and is asking the international community to make sure such intimidation does not go unchecked.

“We would expect that any official found responsible for such acts should be prosecuted, or – if diplomatic immunity prevents that – asked to leave the country,” said Amnesty’s Syrian researcher, Neil Sammonds.

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