Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

'Dozens killed' in Syrian jail riot

Latest update : 2008-07-06

A London-based Syrian human rights group said at least 25 Islamist inmates were killed during a riot at a military jail near Damascus and called on Syrian President Bashar el-Assad to intervene and "stop this massacre".

At least 25 inmates were shot dead by Syrian security forces during a riot by political detainees at a prison in mountains outside Damascus on Saturday, a human rights group said.

"Islamist prisoners started a riot inside the prison this morning," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia, quoting a political prisoner in the Saydnaya jail contacted by mobile phone.

"Shooting is continuing against the prisoners," the London-based group said, adding that a number of inmates had climbed the roof of the military prison north of Damascus to escape the violence.

Helicopters were buzzing the facility near the hilltop village of Saydnaya, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the capital.

The Observatory, which is close to the opposition, said initially that the number of dead was 10 but a spokesman later telephoned AFP to say that the toll had risen to 25.

The Observatory said about 400 detained soldiers were being held hostage in the prison as bargaining chips to apply pressure on Syrian authorities.

The group said it was also receiving phone calls from relatives of prisoners asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to intervene to stop the clashes in Saydnaya, an ancient town with biblical connections.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian authorities.

The Saydnaya prison is one of the biggest in Syria and houses mainly Islamist political prisoners.

Syria has launched a crackdown against dissidents in recent months, drawing strong criticism from the West particularly since the arrests are being carried out under emergency laws in force since 1963.

At least 14 signatories of a December petition calling for radical democratic change in Syria have been rounded up, including former MP Riad Seif.

The prison riot comes just a week before Assad is due in Paris to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on July 12, signalling a resumption of high-level contacts between Paris and Damascus.

Assad is among about 40 foreign leaders who will be in Paris for a July 13 summit that will see European countries come together with states in the Mediterranean region including Arab nations and Israel to improve cooperation.

Saydnaya prison was built in 1987 to accommodate 5,000 detainees but can take up to 10,000, according to the Syrian Human Rights Committee, another non-governmental organisation.

It says the facility was originally built for common law concicts but also takes in political prisoners.

In 2004, it held several hundred Muslim Brothers as well as leftists, Palestinians, Islamist militants and detained Syrian army soldiers, according to the rights group.

Saydnaya is the site of an Antiochian Orthodox convent dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, which was founded in 547 AD and houses a rare icon of her believed to have been painted by the author of one of the gospels, St Luke.

 

Date created : 2008-07-05

COMMENT(S)