Syrian police arrest influential Damascus preacher

May 6, 2011 18:25

AMMAN - Syrian secret police have arrested prominent Damascene preacher Mouaz al-Khatib, a major figure in Syria's pro-democracy uprising, human rights campaigners said on Friday.

"Political Security called Sheikh Mouaz at 11 p.m. on Thursday. They politely asked him to come in for five minutes. He told them he was ill but they insisted. He went and we did not hear from him since," a colleague of Khatib told Reuters.

Khatib, head of the independent Islamic Civilization Society, is seen as an enlightened religious figure. He had moved to assure Syria's minorities that the diversity of the country would be respected if President Bashar Assad falls.

"We call for freedom for every person. For every Sunni, Alawite, Ismaili and Christian, whether Arab or a member of the great Kurdish nation," Khatib told protesters last month. Opposition figures Aref Dalila, an Alawite, and Michel Kilo, a Christian, were by his side.

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