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Assad arrests kin of opposition delegates to talks

‘Outraged’ by newest Syrian maneuver, US calls for relatives’ immediate release

Amhad al-Jarba, the head of Syria's Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, holds up an image of alleged torture victims, during Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2014 (photo credit: AP)
Amhad al-Jarba, the head of Syria's Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, holds up an image of alleged torture victims, during Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2014 (photo credit: AP)

WASHINGTON — The Syrian regime has arrested relatives of the opposition’s delegation to the Geneva peace talks, a US official said Wednesday, calling for their immediate release.

Washington was “outraged” by reports that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad “has arrested family members of the Syrian opposition coalition delegation to the Geneva II peace talks, designated delegates as terrorists, and seized delegates’ assets,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“We call on the regime to immediately and unconditionally release all those unfairly arrested,” she added in a statement.

Among those held was Mahmoud Sabra, the brother of Geneva delegation member, Mohammed Sabra.

Through such actions the Syrian regime was “not only defying the international community but also seeking to suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” Psaki added.

A second round of the UN-led talks in the Swiss city dubbed Geneva II, broke down in acrimony on February 15, only weeks after the warring parties sat down in January for the first time in the three-year civil war to seek a political settlement.

Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, January 22, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Anja Niedringhaus)
Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, January 22, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Anja Niedringhaus)

So far no date has been set for the talks to resume.

“The opposition delegation must be permitted to safely and securely work towards the political transition” which is the goal of the Geneva talks, Psaki said.

“Unfortunately, these arrests and attempts to silence dissent are not new behavior for the Assad regime. This regime continues to brutalize the Syrian people through aerial bombardment and other indiscriminate attacks that maim and kill civilians by the thousands,” she said.

“Political and arbitrary imprisonment, and the systematic torture and death of tens of thousands of people without access to due process, are but a few of the regime’s documented human rights violations.”

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