US, French envoys pay respect to slain Syria activist

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

The US and French ambassadors travelled to the Damascus district of Daraya on Tuesday to attend a condolence ceremony for slain Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar, who reportedly died under torture, activists said.

"The ambassadors of the United States arrived in Daraya along with the French ambassador to offer condolences after the death of Ghiyath Matar," the rights activists said on Twitter.

The activists also posted a brief clip on YouTube, showing the US envoy Robert Ford and his French counterpart Eric Chevallier sitting on chairs at a large ceremony.

Matar, a key player in organising protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, died in detention after being tortured, according to the international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The United States on Sunday condemned Matar's killing.

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Matar while in the custody of Syrian Security Forces," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Nuland said Matar's "courage in the face of the Assad regime's brutal repression is well known in his home of Daraya and across Syria."

His body, which was returned to his family on Saturday after his arrest on September 6, bore bruises on the chest and signs of injuries to the face, said activists cited by HRW.

Matar disappeared on the same day as one of his friends, Yahya Sharbaji.

The two were detained in a car after a chase by security forces in the Sehnaya district of the capital, according to a relative.

Syrian security forces have arrested more than 70,000 people in their crackdown on anti-regime protests that erupted in mid-March, and 15,000 remain in detention, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United Nations says a total of 2,600 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed in a crackdown on almost daily protests by pro-democracy and anti-regime demonstrators in Syria since mid-March.

© 2011 AFP

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