Hundreds of Syrian prisoners riot in protest at jail conditions

by Reuters
Friday, 14 August 2015 22:07 GMT

AMMAN, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Syrian inmates at a main prison in the city of Hama rioted on Friday in a protest against jail conditions and harsh sentences, a monitor and rights activists said on Friday.

A leaked video purportedly from inside the jail showed scores of prisoners with their faces covered chatting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) with footage of a ward that had furniture and equipment ransacked and beds turned into barricades to sealed iron gates.

The UK Observatory for Human Rights said gunfire shots were heard outside the prison in the city located 213 km north of the capital Damascus, after inmates, mostly held on terror-related charges and for joining protests against the state, took control of several major wards and ransacked prison quarters.

Officials were not immediately available for comment and state media did not mention the incident.

The monitor, which tracks violence in the country through a network of sources, said tear gas was used to quell the riots believed to be the worst bout of unrest since simmering tensions inside the prison this year.

In July, authorities broke into prison wards and took at least 25 prisoners to unknown destinations.

In mid-June, scores of inmates ended a hunger strike after getting promises by the authorities to address a catalogue of complaints, including harsh sentences and allegations of widespread torture.

UN investigators have said there were suspected war criminals in Syrian military units and security agencies as well as in the insurgent groups fighting them in the country's four-year long civil war.

International rights groups say thousands of detainees are held in Syrian government prisons without charges, many of whom are subjected to torture, a claim denied by the authorities.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 with popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad and spiraled into civil war after a crackdown by security forces. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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