CAIRO, Egypt, AP – Amnesty International criticized Syria on Tuesday for arresting political and human rights activists, calling the crackdown another “blot” on the country’s poor human rights record.
The London-based group’s statement came a day after a Syrian state security court sentenced Kurdish human rights activist Riad Drar to five years in prison on charges of disseminating false news, inciting sectarian riots and forming a secret organization.
The same court also sentenced Abdul-Sattar Qattan, a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to 12 years in prison.
Amnesty cited the two cases among a list of other detainees and called on Syria to release all of those arrested “due to their beliefs.”
Arrests of human rights and pro-democracy activists are common in Syria. President Bashar Assad has freed hundreds of political prisoners since coming to power in 2000 but has also clamped down on critics of his government.
“The escalation of harassment and incommunicado detention of human rights defenders and activists by the Syrian government continues to be a blot on Syria’s already dismal human rights record,” said Zahir Janmohamed, Amnesty advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty expressed concern that detainees could be subject to torture and ill-treatment, “which is common in Syrian interrogation and detention centers.”
“The Syrian government must cease to use the excuse of security as a pretext for indiscriminately detaining and abusing people because of their beliefs,” it said.
The statement complained of scores of recent arrests of Kurds, Islamists, human rights activists, writers, students and leftists, as well as harsh sentences and unfair trials. It said several hundred political prisoners are being held.
Syria does not issue statements on domestic security matters, including detentions and trials of activists. The news usually spreads through other activists and human rights groups.