Lebanese Demand Facts of Missing Believed to be in Syria

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Lebanese Demand Facts of Missing Believed to be in Syria

Post by Admin on Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:31 am

Lebanese
families fighting to learn the fate of hundreds of their relatives
believed to be held in Syria have been encouraged by the unexpected
release of a prisoner after 16 years in Syrian detention.


"Milad
Barakat, a Lebanese, arrived in Beirut about a month ago after spending
16 years in a Syrian prison. His family had lost trace of him for seven
years," said an organization called Support of Lebanese in Detention
and Exile (Solide).


Barakat is one of 650 people whom the organization says remain in Syrian custody.

"To
put it bluntly, they either remain in Syria or died as a result of
torture they endured while in Syrian custody in Lebanon or Syria,"
Solide president Ghazi Aad told AFP.


He
was referring to a 1987 Amnesty International report that documented 38
methods of torture practiced by Syrian security forces at the time.


"Lebanese
intelligence arrested Barakat in April 1992 and turned him over to
Syrian intelligence," Aad said, adding that a Syrian court sentenced
Barakat to 15 years in prison for fighting the Syrian army in 1990,
after which he was tortured.


The
organization said that Barakat refuses to see anyone except his family
as he remains in a state of shock after being confined under difficult
conditions for so long.


Toward
the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war, Gen. Michel Aoun headed a
temporary government and launched a "war of liberation" against Syria,
which had troops deployed in eastern and northern parts of Lebanon.


Syria's
forces spread throughout most of the country on October 13, 1990, the
day on which many of those still missing were captured. The Lebanese
army was split at the time, with most supporting Aoun and the rest
Syria.


Aad
said that Barakat's mother, similar to many of the missing, had visited
him in the Sednaya prison in Syria until 2000 when she lost track of
him and reported him missing.


"Many
families reported visiting their sons in prisons in Syria only to find
them gone thereafter," Aad said, adding that most depend on released
prisoners for news of their loved ones.


Solide
drew up a list of names, including Barakat's, of those held or missing
in Syrian prisons and submitted it to a Lebanese-Syrian commission
established in 2005 for this purpose.


According to Aad, the Syrian response was terse: "We do not have any information about any of the names on this list."

In
spite of this, Barakat was released to the great joy of his family who
had spent seven years in the dark about his whereabouts.


Aad
said that the Syrian authorities kept Barakat in prison for an
additional year after he served his sentence, finally releasing him in
the fall of 2007. He returned to Lebanon in mid-March.


Aad
said that the case of George Shaalawit is similar. He is also Lebanese
and like Barakat, was included on the list of the prisoners who the
Syrian authorities denied were on their territory.


"Shaalawit's parents lost all contact with him around the year 2000.

They were pleasantly surprised by his release in December 2005 after 11 years in a Syrian prison without due process", said Aad.

Members of Solide have pleaded the case of missing Lebanese thought to be in Syria to political leaders of all confessions.

Fifteen
lawmakers from the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority put a petition
before the Lebanese government urging it "to strive to find a final
solution to this issue as soon as possible with or without the Syrian
government".


Sonia
Eid is the president of the Commission of the Parents of Missing. She
is seeking her son, a Lebanese soldier detained by Syrian forces in
Lebanon in 1990 when he was 20 years old.


She
remembers having visited him only once in a Syrian prison in 1990.
Until 1996, Eid continued to receive news of her son from prisoners who
were released. But she hasn't heard anything since 1996.


"I
went to see Barakat three times after his release in the hopes of
hearing something about my son. But the former prisoner was in a state
of shock and completely refused to speak," said Eid.


"All
that I ask the government is that it works faster and more seriously on
the case of the missing," said the mother whose son would be 38 years
old on Monday.


Picture:
People look at an exhibition in Beirut April 10, 2008. The exhibition
comprises photos of several thousand individuals from diverse
confessions, origins and religions who disappeared during the Lebanese
civil war. The Lebanese civil war is commemorated on April 13.
REUTERS/Mahmoud Kheir (LEBANON)


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