Syrian Activists: Anti-Regime Cartoonist Attacked, Beaten

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 9:35 am (UTC-5)
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Human rights activists say Syrian security forces have beaten a prominent anti-regime cartoonist leaving him severely injured.

The activists say passers-by found Ali Ferzat Thursday on a street in Damascus, after he had been kidnapped and severely beaten, then dumped on the side of a road.

A U.S. television network, CBS, quotes Ferzat's son as saying the kidnappers told Ferzat they would break his arms so he could not draw more pictures of members of the government.

Through his cartoons, Ferzat has become a noted critic of the Syrian government and its five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Syria has banned most foreign media and restricted local coverage, making it difficult to confirm events in the country.

The United Nations says more than 2,000 people have died in Syria during the government's crackdown. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed much of the deadly violence on what he calls armed “gangs” and “terrorists.”

On Wednesday, the European Union expanded sanctions on Syria to target the elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard for its role in helping Syrian security forces combat the uprising against President Assad.

The EU said Iran's elite Quds Force has provided “technical assistance, equipment and other support to the Syrian security forces to repress civilian protest movements.”

The EU blacklist also includes several Syrian generals, a former defense minister and a special envoy for President Assad, Hassan Turkmani, and close associates of the president's younger brother, Maher.

Also Wednesday, Syria's state-run SANA news agency said “armed terrorist groups” kidnapped, tortured and killed 14 citizens in the central city of Homs. SANA also reported that eight Syrian soldiers, including an army officer, were killed Wednesday in a pair of attacks on military vehicles in towns near Homs. The reports could not be independently verified.