Syrian-born man charged with spying on activists in USA
Move by US authorities welcomed after pattern of harassment revealed
The US authorities’ arrest of a man accused of spying on Syrian activists in the country has been welcomed by Amnesty International today.
Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, 47, is due to appear before a District Court in Alexandria, near Washington DC, this afternoon.
The Syrian-born, naturalised US citizen has been charged with spying on US-based Syrian activists between April and June of this year and sharing 20 audio and video files with the Mukhabaraat, Syria’s intelligence agencies. According to the US authorities, in June the Syrian government allegedly paid for Soueid to travel to Damascus, where he met President Bashar al-Assad and intelligence officials.
Last week Amnesty published a report on the systematic monitoring and harassment of more than 30 Syrian pro-reform activists living in Europe and the Americas in recent months.
Amnesty International Syria researcher Neil Sammonds said:
“It’s a very positive development that the authorities in the USA have acted on the numerous credible allegations of abuse brought forward by Syrian activists living there.
“Their actions show that the long reach of Syria’s intelligence apparatus has its limits.
“Given the pattern of harassment apparently emanating from Syrian embassies internationally, this investigation and subsequent arrest by the US authorities is precisely the kind of robust action from host governments that we would also like to see in other countries where there is credible information about the threats and harassment faced by Syrian nationals living abroad.
“The freedoms to gather together with others and to speak one’s mind are universal rights that are highly valued in the countries where Syrian activists have reported being monitored and threatened.
“If the host governments’ support for these rights is to be credible, they must take concrete action to put an end to Syria’s intimidation of peaceful activists.”
Amnesty’s recent report, “The Long Reach of Mukhabaraat", showed how embassy officials and others collaborating with the Syrian government have spied on and intimidated activists across eight countries. In some cases, those still living in Syria have been harassed, detained or even tortured following their relatives’ participation in pro-reform protests abroad.
The report also showed how Syrian activists in the USA had spoken favourably to Amnesty of the steps already taken by the US government in response to such reported harassment.