Syria arrests opposition figures

Rights groups say two opposition figures and 11 women protesters detained.


    About 100 people rallied in support of the president as journalists were taken around in Damascus Old City [AFP]

    Syrian security forces have arrested two veteran opposition figures and a group of female protesters,
    adding to thousands of political prisoners in the country, rights groups have said.

    The Syrian Centre for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience said security agents detained Hassan Abdel Azim, 81, of the National Democratic Grouping from his office in Damascus, and Omar Qashash, 85, of the People's Democratic Party, as he was walking in a park in Aleppo on Saturday.

    The Syrian rights organisation Sawasiah said authorities have arrested thousands of pro-democracy sympathisers since the demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa in March.


    "They are in prisons ... already packed with thousands of prisoners of conscience who peacefully defied the repressive regime that has spilt the blood of thousands of Syrians in the last four decades," the group said in a statement.

    Other rights campaigners said security forces arrested 11 women who marched in a silent all-women demonstration in the busy Salhyia commercial district of Damascus on Saturday.

    Plainclothes security forces stopped the group of about 50 women before they reached the parliament, activists said. 

    The march was in support of residents of the city of Deraa, where the government has sent tanks to crush an uprising. The women raised signs that said "Break the Deraa siege" and "No to the killings" before they
    were confronted by security forces.

    The security police reportedly accused them of being "spokeswomen for the United States and Israel". One woman shouted back: "When men fall quiet, women speak out" as she was being led away, one rights campaigner who was at the scene said.

    Elsewhere in the capital, the information ministry took local journalists on a tour in the old part of the city to show them that life is going on as usual. As they walked near the Ummayad Mosque, about 100 government supporters demonstrated carrying pictures of Bashar al-Assad, the president.

    Separately, human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh said secret police raided her home in the Qazazine district of Damascus on Saturday while she was not there.

    "They waited for me and for my husband for hours, then they arrested my husband's brother Abdelrahman Hamidi, who was the only person in the house at the time," Zaitouneh said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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