Middle East
2:17 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Syrian Official Quits, Cites Regime's Brutality

A Syrian official has released a YouTube video announcing his resignation and accusing President Bashar Assad's regime of killing dozens of unarmed protesters while they were in custody.

In the video, Adnan Mohammad al-Bakkour, the attorney general of the embattled central city of Hama, says he has detailed information on the deaths of scores of anti-government protesters on a single day.

The statement is one of the most detailed accounts of the government's crackdown since the Syrian uprising began in March.

Wearing a light blue sport coat and sitting behind a desk, Bakkour says he has information that 72 anti-government protesters were killed in detention on July 31. That was the first day of the so-called Ramadan offensive in Hama, when army troops and tanks rolled into a city that had been a center of protest.

Bakkour says he also knows about more than 400 protesters who were killed by security forces and left in mass graves in public parks. He says he was asked to prepare a fabricated report saying the victims were killed by armed gangs.

He says thousands of protesters have been detained, that hundreds of these have been tortured, and that the army destroyed homes in Hama while people were still inside.

Defector Accuses Officials By Name

Then, in perhaps the most surprising part of the video, Bakkour names names, including Minister of the Interior Muhammad al-Shaar and various officers in the military and intelligence agencies. These men, Bakkour says, are directly responsible for the deaths. He says he will provide documents and witnesses at a later time.

The entire statement lasts only a couple of minutes. It ends with a warning: "Never think that God is oblivious to what the unjust are doing."

Bakkour spoke in Arabic, with English subtitles appearing on the the video.

Shortly after the video emerged, Syrian state TV broadcast a story claiming that terrorists had kidnapped Bakkour and forced him to make the statement at gunpoint. The state media cited Bakkour's driver and bodyguard as the source for the information.

The driver said seven men armed with Kalashnikov rifles surrounded Bakkour's car. He said he tried to make an emergency phone call at the time, but the network was busy and he couldn't get through.

But after that report aired, Bakkour then issued another video statement. It was first broadcast on the Saudi-owned TV station, Al Arabiya. Bakkour wears the same sport coat, this time with no tie.

"I quit my post to protest the savage behavior of the regime toward peaceful protesters," he says. "The Syrian state TV version is devoid of truth."

"I am under the protection of the revolutionaries," he adds. "I will give live statements as soon as I am outside the country."

Activists say Bakkour is seeking ways to be smuggled out of Syria. They say the crackdown in Hama has only intensified, as authorities go door to door, looking for him.

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