Wednesday

19th Dec 2018

Syrian intelligence accused of threatening people in EU capital

  • Anti-regime rally in Brussels on 1 April. 'There are probably at least five informers here,' one protester told EUobserver (Photo: EUobserver)

The Belgian foreign ministry is to investigate allegations that Syrian intelligence is terrorising Syrian opposition expats in the EU capital.

Foreign minister Didier Reynders told Belgian Liberal MEP Louis Michel on Friday (30 March) that he will personally look into claims that Syrian diplomats in Brussels have threatened people who take part in anti-regime rallies that their families in Syria will be harmed unless they stop.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We don't have any evidence at this stage. But the minister and I believe this really is happening. He believes there could be problems in other EU capitals as well, so he will ask his colleagues in the EU Council to investigate ... He promised me to be very engaged on this," Michel, a former Belgian foreign minister and EU commissioner, told this website.

Michel spoke to Reynders after meeting privately with Syrian activists who made the accusations.

EUobserver interviewed three anti-regime expats who also say they were threatened. One of them believes that a close relative of his was shot dead in Syria earlier this year because of his activities in Brussels.

Two of them asked to remain anonymous because their families still live in Syria. One said he is scared to file a statement with Belgian police in case his name comes out. Another one said he cannot go to police because he does not have a Belgian residency permit.

The third contact - Hassan Addaher, a graphic designer who helps run the Brussels-based NGO, the Comite Belge Pour Soutenir la Revolution Syrienne - said his cousin, Abdel Baset Shamoot, was tortured and killed in Homs in January. He agreed to speak on the record because he has no more relatives in Syria.

He noted that four other family members of Belgian-based activists have been killed in Syria in recent months. "The Syrian community in Belgium is so small that it is difficult to believe this is a coincidence," he said.

The allegations center around Wael Saker - a diplomatic "attache" at the Syrian embassy.

Addaher said that Saker is a senior officer in the Syrian "mukhabarat" (intelligence services) and that he operates a network of Syrian and Lebanese-origin "shabiha" (agents/militia) who infiltrate anti-regime groups to collect names, make threatening phonecalls and go to some anti-regime rallies to try to provoke violence.

He also accused Saker of driving a black Mercedes at high speed at protesters outside the Syrian embassy on 5 February in an incident captured on camera.

He knows how Syrian intelligence works because his father, Abdullah Addaher, served in the mukhabarat for two years. He later became a general in the signals corps, but fled to Jordan in 1981.

Addaher said Saker has interrogated friends of his who went to the embassy for routine paperwork. He indicated that Belgian security services know about the problem: one Belgian security contact told him the "Brussels shabiha" get €250 a head each time they come to yell pro-regime slogans.

Attaches normally have designated roles - on trade, or culture and so on. The Syrian embassy declined to tell this website what kind of attache Saker is.

Its press office said in a written statement: "Those old accusations are unfounded. Some people are trying to market them in order to harm the national role of Syrian embassies ... but we challenge anyone to come even with one proof."

On the shabiha allegation, it said: "Syrian expatriates in their vast majority have expressed their fabulous feelings and stands [sic] in solidarity with their country in these difficult circumstances." It added there is "no institutional link with the embassy" and pro-regime NGOs in Belgium, such as the Association of Syrian Expatriates.

EUobserver also phoned a Belgian mobile number from which Addaher says he received two threatening calls.

The man who answered identified himself as Aiman Alamen. He said he comes from north Syria and owns a second-hand clothes business in Belgium.

He said he has no links with the Syrian embassy, but supports the Syrian leader because his relatives in Syria tell him the opposition is killing innocent people. He admitted to shouting abuse at Addaher. But he said he did it because he was "sick" of getting text messages asking him to go to anti-regime rallies. He said he called a second time to say sorry for losing his temper.

As for the Syrian ambassador in Belgium, Mohamad Ayman Soussan, an EU diplomat told this website: "He is a gentleman. If this is going on, I don't believe it's on his instructions."

Addaher agreed. "I hate to defend [any of] them. But many Syrian diplomats are suffering just like us - if they say anything against the government, they lose their family," he explained.

Former CIA officer questions EU motives in Syria

EU and US intervention in Syria is designed to harm Iran and to protect Israel and Lebanese Christians, not Syrian people, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with experience of the region.

News in Brief

  1. EU repeats threat to US on 'Privacy Shield'
  2. Commission publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plan
  3. EU court slams Latvia for removing ECB member
  4. Financial Times picks Soros as 'Person of the Year'
  5. Italy strikes last-minute deal with EU over budget
  6. UK to unveil new immigration rules ending free movement
  7. Belgian PM resigns five months before elections
  8. EU agree to ban throwaway plastics to reduce marine litter

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us