Lebanese call upon their government to release detained Syrians
About 350 protesters gathered Saturday in north Lebanon and called on the Lebanese government to release Syrian refugees reportedly arrested by the Lebanese army for crossing illegally into the country, DPA reported.
The protesters gathered near a mosque in the Bab Al-Tebbaneh neighbourhood of the northern port city of Tripoli, a mainly Sunni Muslim city, and chanted slogans in support of the Syrian protesters who have been calling for more freedom in Syria since March 15.
Among the crowd were dozens of Syrian refugees who fled to northern Lebanon as a result of the harsh crackdown on protesters by the Syrian security forces.
"We call on the Lebanese government to release the detained refugees," read one banner carried by the protesters.
The imam of the Bab al Tabbaneh mosque, Sheikh Mazen al-Mahmoud, threatened further protests.
"We give the Lebanese government until Friday to release all Syrians it is holding or else we will organise a massive popular rally," Mahmoud said.
International rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement last week that there are nine Syrian men and one child who have been detained by the Lebanese army since May 15 for allegedly crossing illegally into Lebanon.
Human Rights Watch has urged Lebanon to release the refugees and not to hand them over to the Syrian authorities, for fear they could face torture.
Some 5,500 Syrians, mainly women and children, have fled violence in their hometowns and villages and sought refuge in the area of Wadi Khaled in north Lebanon since April 28.
According to rights groups, almost 1,100 people have been killed since the demonstrations calling for greater freedoms, political reforms and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad began in March.