US condemns cartoonist beating in Syria
The United States on Thursday condemned the « disgusting » beating of Syria’s best-known satirical cartoonist, Ali Ferzat, and the arrest of five other activists it said had been detained.
« We are concerned in particular about these individuals, who are among the most moderate, and we are concerned about the disgusting decision to brutalize this cartoonist’s hands, » State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Citing information from the US embassy in Damascus, Nuland said there are « credible » pictures of Ferzat’s hands showing they had been broken in what she called « the most disgusting and deplorable way to send a message. »
« It’s not only Ali Ferzat that we are worried about. The regime has also locked up a number of other prominent dissidents to send a message, » she added.
She identified them as Walid al-Buni, Nawaf Bashir, George Sabra, Mohammed Galiyun and Abdullah al-Khalil.
« These are some of the more moderate activists who have been opposing violence, and they’ve locked them up, » Nuland said.
« How you can possibly expect a government like this to lead a transition » to democracy, she said.
Activists said masked Syrian security forces and pro-regime militiamen grabbed Ferzat in Damascus while he was returning home by car at 4:30 am (0130 GMT).
« The attackers stole the contents of his briefcase, including his drawings and other personal belongings, » said Omar Idlbi of the Local Coordination Committees, which organize activists on the ground.
« He was beaten hard, notably on his hands. Passersby found him on the road to the airport and he was taken to hospital, » he said.
Since the start of an anti-regime uprising in March, Ferzat, one of the Arab world’s most renowned cartoonists, has published cartoons critical of the brutal crackdown on protests.