Syria 'targets protesters living in UK'
Scotland Yard investigating claims of threats and harassment
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 02 October 2011
Scotland Yard confirmed yesterday it is investigating claims that Syrian embassy staff in London have monitored and harassed protesters in Britain and targeted their families back home.
The Foreign Office has held several meetings with the Syrian ambassador to discuss the allegations and is encouraging witnesses to contact the Metropolitan Police. Officials said they would wait to see evidence from the investigation before deciding on any further action.
On Monday the Government will come under pressure to act as Amnesty International publishes a report documenting abuses suffered by anti-government protesters in countries outside Syria, including Britain. It shows that pro-reform Syrian activists are being spied on and physically attacked across three continents. Visits by security forces to relatives in Syria are also common, the report alleges, with family members interrogated, threatened, detained and tortured.
London-based protesters against the Assad regime are to demonstrate outside the Syrian embassy on Tuesday carrying placards that bear their names beside the slogan "We Are Not Afraid".
Emad Darkazalli, 35, will be among them. He left Syria in 2005 and organised the first protests outside the Syrian embassy in February. He told The IoS how he and his mother in Damascus were later targeted.
Soon after the embassy protest, officials discovered his phone number and called him "all the time" threatening him, he said. When he helped create the Free-Syrian League in April, the calls became more threatening. "They said: 'now the real trouble starts, we know your family in Syria," he said.
"They went to my house in Damascus twice and met my mother." They shouted at her using foul language then ransacked his room, seizing his computer and photos.
He claims that in July secret police broke into the house again while his mother was out. Neighbours warned her not to return. She sold her jewellery and fled to Jordan.
The Syrian embassy declined to comment on the allegations.
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