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Supporters of Syrian regime attack demonstrators in Beirut

(Maharat/IFEX) - On the evening of 2 August 2011, a group of activists and bloggers who gathered at the Syrian Embassy on Hamra Street in Beirut to show their support for the Syrian people were violently attacked by supporters of the Syrian regime.

The group of attackers, which included people from both Lebanon and Syria, beat the protesters with belts, knives, chairs and anything they could grab hold of, injuring at least five people. Lebanese security force personnel stationed in front of the Syrian embassy watched from a distance as the young men and women were beaten and injured.

Ghassan Makarem, one of the demonstrators, who was operated on to repair a severe fracture in his foot, told Maharat that the protesters had gathered on one side of the street when the attackers appeared from the other side and began to beat people. Makarem said, "My friend told me they hit me in the face, then I fainted when one of them kept hitting me on my foot. . . . My friends called an ambulance to take me to the hospital." He added that "this was the first time that an incident like this has taken place. This is a new and dangerous situation for Beirut. We will continue with our actions."

Assaad Thebian, another of the demonstrators, described what happened that night and how the attackers followed the demonstrators along Hamra Street. He told Maharat that the District Attorney and Internal Security Forces refused to allow the demonstrators to file a complaint about the incident.

Lawyer Samer Abou Said, who was also present at the demonstration and was beaten, explained that it is illegal for the security forces to refuse to file a case or to arrest the attackers. He said that many of the demonstrators who were attacked have prepared a case that will be filed and presented to the courts.

This incident follows on the heels of a huge reaction to Lebanon's decision to disassociate itself from a 3 August U.N. Security Council statement condemning the violence in Syria. Lebanese Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati justified the decision as a move to refrain from intervening in Damascus's internal affairs.

The Maharat Foundation is concerned over the rise in freedom of expression violations in Lebanon and demands that the government take action to support and provide a secure environment for initiatives and demonstrations such as that which took place on 2 August.

Maharat also calls on the Lebanese authorities to conduct a serious investigation into the 2 August incident in order to protect the Lebanese people and guarantee the freedom of expression rights stipulated in Article 13 of the Lebanese constitution and in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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