Arab body says monitors should quit Syria promptly

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL IN BERLIN, REUTERS
January 2, 2012 02:40

German-Syrian politician attacked in his apartment in Berlin by suspected Assad agents.

4 minute read.



Syrians protest against Assad in Amude

Syrian protest 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

An Arab League advisory body called on Sunday for the immediate withdrawal of the organization’s monitoring mission in Syria, saying it was allowing Damascus to cover up continued violence and abuses.

The Arab League has sent a small team to Syria to check whether President Bashar Assad is keeping his promise to end a crackdown on a nine-month uprising against his rule.

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The observer mission has already stirred controversy.

Rights groups have reported continued deaths in clashes and tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to show the observers the extent of their anger.

The Sudanese head of the mission also infuriated some observers by suggesting he was reassured by first impressions of Homs, one of the main centers of unrest.

The Arab Parliament, an 88- member advisory committee of delegates from each of the League’s member states, said on Sunday that the violence was continuing to claim many victims.

“For this to happen in the presence of Arab monitors has roused the anger of Arab people and negates the purpose of sending a fact-finding mission,” the organization’s chairman Ali al-Salem al-Dekbas said.

“This is giving the Syrian regime an Arab cover for continuing its inhumane actions under the eyes and ears of the Arab League,” he said.

The Arab Parliament was the first body to recommend freezing Syria’s membership in the organization in response to Assad’s crackdown.

An Arab League official, commenting on the parliament’s statement, told Reuters it was too early to judge the mission’s success, saying it was scheduled to remain in Syria for a month and that more monitors were on their way.

The parliament called on the League’s Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to convene a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to adopt a resolution to withdraw the mission immediately.

The continued abuse and killing of innocent Syrian civilians was a “blatant violation to the Arab League’s protocol,” Dekbas said.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said there had been “massive demonstrations” throughout Syria on Friday in support of Assad, and denouncing “the plot which Syria is exposed to.”

It said demonstrators had denounced “the pressure and biased campaigns targeting Syria’s security and stability” and the “lies and fabrications of the misleading media channels.”

Syrian authorities have accused foreign powers of arming and funding “terrorists” in the country and say 2,000 of the government’s soldiers and police have been killed.

In addition, Syrian security agents, who were likely commissioned by the Assad regime in Damascus, attacked German-Syrian politician Ferhad Ahma on Christmas eve in his Berlin apartment.

According to an article in the online Der Spiegel magazine on Sunday, Ahma, an opponent of Assad’s government, is listed as number 236 on an internal security document of Assad’s regime.

The list consists of 287 names of exile Syrians and was brought to the fore by kurdwatch.org. According to Spiegel, the authenticity of the list cannot be independently verified. The people on the Syrian regime security list are being sought for “criminality against the state” in Syria.

Two men stormed the apartment of the 37-year-old Ahma and assaulted him before Christmas. He told the German media that two men beat him with “clubs” and “as a friend came who was there to visit, and began to scream, a neighbor who was alarmed opened the door.

The perpetrators fled. I was lucky that I was not alone at home.”

As a result of the attack, Ahma suffered wounds and bruises to his body. He is a member of the Syrian National Council, a group seeking to remove the Assad regime because of its brutal repression of the civilian population, which has resulted in the deaths over 5,000 Syrians.

The German case is not the first example of Syria’s regime working to repress dissidents in foreign countries. Syrian critics in the US have complained to the State Department in Washington about Syrian intelligence agents working to intimidate and silence opponents of the Syrian regime in the United States.

Ahma fled Syria 15 years ago and is active in the local Berlin Green Party. He works as a translator in connection with integration affairs.

The German Foreign Ministry requested a meeting with Syria’s ambassador to discuss the attack on Ahma. However, the German government, which has had traditionally close relations with Assad’s regime, did not summon the Syrian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry, which would have meant a formal diplomatic complaint.

The Foreign Ministry warned the Syrian Ambassador to Berlin Radwan Lutfi that “threatening Syria’s opposition in Germany with violence or intimidation will in no way be tolerated.”

According to a 2010 report by the German domestic intelligence agency Verfassungschutz, “The Syrian intelligence agencies monitor in Syria and abroad opposition groups and individual persons whom the Syrian agencies see as a danger for the regime.”

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