Syrian opposition says 200 killed in protests
Amman: Syria`s main human rights movement has said the death toll from less than a month of protests has reached 200 and called on the Arab league to impose sanctions on the ruling hierarchy.
"Syria`s uprising is screaming with 200 martyrs, hundreds of injured and a similar number of arrests," the Damascus Declaration group said in a letter sent on Monday to the secretary general of the Arab League.
"The regime unleashes its forcers to besiege cities and terrorize civilians, while protesters across Syria thunder with the same chant `peaceful peaceful`," it added.
"We ask you to... impose political, diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, which continues to be the faithful guardian of Hafez al-Assad`s legacy," the letter said, referring to the iron-fisted rule of President Hafez al-Assad, father of current President Bashar.
Bashar, facing unprecedented protests against his 11-year-old rule, has responded with a blend of force -- his security forces have fired at unarmed protesters, according to witnesses -- and vague promises to relax bans on freedoms, such as replacing emergency law with anti-terrorism law.
The protests, which erupted in the southern city of Deraa last month before spreading, have demanded freedom of expression and assembly and an end to corruption.
The authorities said armed gangs and "infiltrators" were responsible for the violence and that soldiers and police also have been killed.
"President Assad has been only giving promises for the last 11 years. Instead of solutions he talks, as the regime usually does, about an outside conspiracy," the letter said.
The Damascus declaration is named for a document signed in 2005 by prominent civic, Islamist and liberal leaders calling for the end of 41 years of Assad family rule and its replacement with a democratic system.
The document demanded the lifting of bans on freedom of speech and assembly and the abolition of emergency law, under which Syria has been governed since 1963 when the ruling Baath Party took power in a coup and banned all opposition.
Most of its members have spent long periods as political prisoners, including leading opposition figure Raid al-Turk, who spent more than 17 years in solitary confinement under Hafez al-Assad.
Fayez Sara, a journalist who was jailed for two-and-a-half years along with 11 Damascus Declaration members and released in 2010, was arrested again on Sunday, rights activists said.
"The secret police have been rounding up every outspoken figure they can get their hands on. They call them in for `interrogation` and keep them, pick them up from the street or break into their homes," one of the rights defenders said.
Assad has said the protests are part of a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife. His father used similar language when he crushed leftist and Islamist challenges to his rule in the 1980s, killing thousands.
Syrian security forces sealed off the coastal city of Banias on Monday following pro-democracy protests and killings by irregulars loyal to Assad, residents said.
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