Report: Syrian activists charged with "weakening national morale"
A number of people detained in the ongoing crackdown by Syrian authorities against activists and dissidents were charged for "weakening national morale," activists told regional network Al Arabiya on Wednesday.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the western cities of Aleppo and Homs on Tuesday night to demand an end to the use of violence against demonstrators and to stop the sweeping arrests of dissidents, online activists said, DPA reported.
Videos posted on the Facebook group "Syrian Revolution 2011" showed protesters in Aleppo chanting "One hand!" - a call for unity between armed forces and the protesters.
The Syrian government has deployed military forces to several cities throughout the country in an attempt to quell the protests.
Activists say the military repeatedly opened fire on protesters, but there were unconfirmed reports that a number of troops refused to carry out orders to attack citizens.
Detainees in Syria reported that they were tortured by security forces, Amnesty International said in a report issued Tuesday.
"These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces' violent onslaught against his own people," said Philip Luther, the group's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Syrian state television aired alleged confessions by detainees referred to as "terrorists" on Tuesday night.
The Syrian government maintains that the protests are instigated by foreign conspirators, Islamic extremists, and terrorist groups.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an interview with l'Express magazine published Wednesday, said France would push for the adoption of "the severest of sanctions" against the Syrian regime at the European Union.
France advised its nationals residing in Syria to leave the country "until the situation normalizes."
Rights groups say at least 600 people have been killed and around 1,000 arrested in the ongoing crackdown against activists and dissidents in the country.
Syria has been rocked by nationwide protests calling for political reform since mid-March. Following the government's frequent use of violence against them, protesters have increasingly demanded an end to the rule of al-Assad and his Ba'ath Party, which has been in power since 1963.