Documents reveal brutalities of Assad’s shadowy security agencies

President Bashar Al-Assad. (AFP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Documents reveal brutalities of Assad’s shadowy security agencies

  • The documents also offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Assad’s security agencies

BEIRUT: Thousands of documents found in abandoned Syrian regime offices during the country’s civil war reveal the reach of President Bashar Assad’s shadowy security agencies that sought to eliminate dissent at all costs, according
to a rights report published Tuesday.

The documents, obtained by the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Center, show the agencies spied on the populace at large, sought to eliminate dissidents through detention, intimidation or killings and systematically persecuted the Kurdish minority even before the onset the 2011 uprising against Assad.

The report, titled “Walls Have Ears, An Analysis of Classified Syrian Security Sector Documents” and based on a sample of 5,000 documents, presents some of the most damning evidence of state involvement — at the highest level — in the bloody crackdown on protesters, dissidents, and even foreign journalists in Syria.

The documents also offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Assad’s security agencies and how pervasively they monitored Syrians’ everyday lives.

Sometimes handwritten, notes contain orders from top commanders to arrest, detain and “do what is necessary” to quell the unrest.

One document details how a man informed on his own brother for supporting anti-Assad protests, prompting a security commander to seek permission to lure the brother into a trap.

Another document, from the country’s top intelligence agency, the National Security Office, identified a French journalist of Lebanese descent as an “instigator of protests” and barred her from entering the country.

Several of the documents identify protesters by name, labeling many as terrorists without any evidence, while others detail the regime's policy of containing and monitoring political activities of the Kurdish minority.

“The documents show clearly that orders were very centralized and came from really high-level officials, including from heads of the security agency themselves, and in lots of documents from the National Security Office,” said Mohammad Al-Abdallah, the director of the Washington-based group.

“This, combined with the nature of the orders — deployment of military units, surveillance, the use of lethal force, persecutions of the Kurds — all are proof a systematic state practice, and can be used as evidence to establish both the Syrian state responsibility and the individual criminal responsibility for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he added.

When protests erupted in March 2011 in Syria, the regime responded with a violent crackdown.

The crackdown, in turn, sparked an armed rebellion against regime forces, dividing Syria into government and opposition-held areas.

Almost nine years later, more than 400,000 people have been killed, half of the pre-war population of 23 million is either displaced internally or refugees in neighboring countries. Most of the towns and cities lie in ruins.

Syria’s regime, which typically does not comment on security issues nor responds to reports accusing it of human rights violations, justifies its crackdown by describing those who rose up against it as terrorists. Assad charges that the uprising was part of a conspiracy supported by the US and regional foes to oust him from power.

The documents were collected from the province of Raqqa and the town of Tabqa in eastern Syria in 2013, and from the western province of Idlib in 2015, following the withdrawal of regime forces.

The Washington-based watchdog and investigators from another independent group, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability extracted over 400,000 documents and collectively scanned and digitized them.

Both groups have already offered assistance to European prosecutors to pursue criminal cases against Syrian officials.


Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

Updated 41 min 48 sec ago
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Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

  • Morsi, was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention, says state TV
  • The former president died aged 67

CAIRO: Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, one of his lawyers said, a day after he collapsed in court and died.

“He was buried in Medinat Nasr, in eastern Cairo, with his family present. The funeral prayer was said in Tora prison hospital” where he was declared dead on Monday, his lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud said.

Egyptian state television announced that Morsi, 67, who was ousted by the military on July 3, 2013, had been attending a court session at his trial on charges of espionage and links with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It was reported that he collapsed in the courtroom inside a glass cage he and others had been sharing, before his body was transferred to a local hospital.

Morsi died from a sudden heart attack, state television reported early on Tuesday, citing a medical source. The source said the former president, who was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention.

Attorney-General Nabil Sadiq issued a statement saying: “The accused, Mohammed Morsi, in the presence of the other defendants inside the cage, fell unconscious, where he was immediately transferred to the hospital.

“The preliminary medical report stated that by external medical examination they found no pulse, no breathing, and his eyes were unresponsive to light. He died at 4:50 p.m. and no apparent injuries to the body were found.”

Sadiq added he had ordered the transfer of teams from the Supreme State Security Prosecution Office and the Southern Cairo Prosecution Office to conduct an investigation into Morsi’s death, and to examine surveillance footage from the courtroom and collect witness testimonies.

He also ordered that a senior forensic committee headed by the chief medical officer and the director of forensic medicine to prepare a forensic report on the cause of death.

Various outlets say that a state of high alert has been issued by the military and the Ministry of the Interior throughout the country following the news, for fear of riots or activity by the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Morsi was a prominent figure.

Morsi became president in June 2012 after the first democratic elections in the country following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011. He was Egypt’s fifth president.

He was born to a family of farmers on Aug. 20, 1951, in the village of Al-Adwa in Sharkia province. He married in 1978 and leaves behind his wife, five children and three grandchildren.

Following his deposition and arrest, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Oct. 22, 2016, over bloody clashes that took place on Dec. 5, 2012 in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and opponents of Morsi rejecting a constitutional declaration issued in November of that year.

Other sentences meant his total incarceration could have been up to 48 years, with the ongoing espionage case potentially carrying a further maximum sentence of 25 years.

In Istanbul on Tuesday, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, mourning former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and some chanting slogans blaming Cairo authorities for his death.

* With AFP