Syria accused of torturing hundreds of detainees to death

AN activist group has accused the Syrian regime of torturing hundreds of people to death in overcrowded prisons, jails and illegal detention centres across the country since an uprising began in March.

Avaaz, an online global activist group, issued a report saying 617 people have been confirmed killed under torture by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as they cracked down on the revolt.

“Assad’s henchmen have tried to break the pro-democracy movement in these torture chambers, but brave Syrians are still standing up for their rights,” said Avaaz campaign director Stephanie Brancaforte.

The alleged torture vict-ims are among 6,874 people killed since the uprising began, Avaaz said, giving a significantly higher toll than the 5,000 given several weeks ago by the UN.

Avaaz said it verified each death by three independent sources, including a family member of the deceased and the imam who performed the funeral procession. The group said it works with a team of 58 human rights monitors in Syria.

Avaaz encouraged Arab League monitors in Syria to “visit these torture chambers and ensure the regime immediately end these atrocities.”

Syria generally does not respond to criticism about its human rights record. But the regime has long contended the turmoil this year is not an uprising by reform seekers but the work of terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs. Most international observers dismiss that claim as an attempt by an autocratic regime to terrify its citizens into abandoning the revolt.

Avaaz’s figures are impossible to independently confirm, with Assad’s regime continuing to bar almost all foreign journalists or human rights groups from entering Syria.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said this week that Syria had released about 3,500 detainees in recent weeks.

State TV reported that authorities have released at least another 500 prisoners accused of involvement in anti-regime activities. The move appeared to be another gesture to comply with the Arab League.

Avaaz said 37,000 people remain in detention.

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