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Crackdown in Syria

The Syrian government is engaged in repressing critics of the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. According to news reports, Syrian authorities in the northern city of Aleppo detained Samir Nashar, spokesman for the opposition Syrian Free National Party.

Others arrested include Muhammad Najati Tayyara former vice-president of the Human Rights Association in Syria, and Ali al-Abdullah, a journalist and human rights activist. Mr. al-Abullah's sons, Muhammad and Omar, are also in custody. In a written statement, the independent monitoring group Human Rights Watch says the Syrian "authorities have provided no information regarding their whereabouts or the reasons for their detention."

Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, says Syrian "President Bashar al-Assad should immediately free Ali al-Abdullah and his sons and order his security forces to halt this blatant intimidation of human rights activists."

Human Watch Watch says that "These latest arrests fall within a pattern of increased harassment and persecution of human rights activists in Syria. . . .Syrian security forces detained. . . .Amar Qurabi, a spokesperson the Arab Human Rights Organization in Syria, for forty-eight hours following his return to Damascus from a trip to Washington, D.C., and Paris."

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says the U.S. is "very concerned about events in Syria":

"In recent days we've seen individuals. . . .peacefully advocating fundamental human rights who have been subjected to intimidation and arbitrary detention. In other cases, non-violent demonstrators have been attacked by mobs while Syrian security forces just watched."

Deputy State Department spokesman Ereli says the United States "believe[s] that the atmosphere of fear is being fostered by the Syrian authorities." He says the U.S. calls "upon the government of Syria to cease its harassment of Syrians who are just seeking to bring about change and peaceful democracy to their country."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.