Syria Opposition Demands Release of Assyrian Dissident
Syria's main opposition groups called Friday for the release of a prominent Assyrian Christian dissident who was detained by the security forces.
"The Syrian National Coalition condemns the detention in the city of Qamishli on December 19 of Gabriel Mushi Gowriyeh, head of the Assyrian Democratic Organization’s political bureau," the group said in a statement.
The Coalition called for Gowriyeh and "all prisoners of conscience to be released."
The Assyrian Democratic Organization is a core member of the Syrian National Council, a key component of the Coalition.
The Council also issued a statement condemning Gowriyeh's arrest on Thursday as part of an "escalated campaign to silence patriotic voices" and to "eliminate peaceful and civil political action."
Speaking to Agence France Presse, Coalition member Samir Nashar accused President Bashar Assad's regime of "detaining any opponent whose work challenges its claim to defend Syria's minorities."
Nashar said Gowriyeh "is a veteran dissident, who participated in the Damascus declaration of 2005."
In 2005, a core group of dissidents signed a statement criticizing the Assad government and calling for peaceful reform.
Gowriyeh "is well-connected both in and outside Syria. He was called in for questioning by the security forces in Qamishli (a majority Kurdish city in northern Syria) and has not been released since," said Nashar.
Syria's revolt erupted in March 2011. It has since morphed into a brutal war that has killed 126,000 people.
The regime has maintained since the start of the conflict that it is protecting Syria, and its patchwork of ethnic and religious minorities, from Islamists, who are growing increasingly powerful in rebel ranks.
Since the uprising began, thousands of people have been detained in the country's jails, where they are systematically deprived of rights such as due process, according to human rights organizations.
Opponents -- including peaceful activists and dissidents whose movements are tolerated by Assad's regime -- have suffered long periods in detention. Many of them remain missing.