Syrian ambassador to UK reprimanded over harassment of Syrian ex-pats
‘It's encouraging that the UK authorities are taking the threat to ex-pat Syrians seriously’ - Neil Sammonds
Responding to news that the Syrian ambassador to the United Kingdom has been called to the Foreign Office and issued with a warning that any harassment or intimidation of Syrians in the UK will not be tolerated, Amnesty International Syria researcher Neil Sammonds said:
"It's encouraging that the UK authorities are taking the threat to ex-pat Syrians seriously.
"We recently showed that there's a clear pattern of Syrian officials trying to systematically harass Syrians who've taken to the streets in London and elsewhere, including by threatening them and visiting their homes, and in some cases by security forces intimidating their families inside Syria.
"Syrians in Britain should be able to freely voice their criticisms of what is happening in Syria without receiving threats from embassy officials here."
Last week Amnesty published a report - The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat - showing that at least 30 activists in eight countries - Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA - have said they have faced intimidation from embassy officials and others, and that in some cases their relatives in Syria have been exposed to harassment, detention and even torture.
In response, Syrians in the UK last week also staged a defiant “I am not afraid” demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London, carrying placards bearing their own names and home towns to signify that they would not be intimidated into silence or anonymity.
Meanwhile, yesterday, a 47-year-old US citizen - Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid - was charged by the US authorities with spying on US-based Syrian activists between April and June of this year, and sharing audio and video files with the Mukhabaraat, Syria’s intelligence agencies. According to the US authorities, in June the Syrian government paid for Soueid to travel to Damascus, where he met President Bashar al-Assad and intelligence officials.