Thousands chant anti-Assad slogans at Syria funeral

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2011 11:33 AM
Thousands chant anti-Assad slogans at Syria funeral

AMMAN (Reuters) - Thousands of Syrian mourners chanted slogans calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad Sunday at the funeral of a soldier killed during unrest sweeping the country, witnesses said.

The chants, more hostile toward the Syrian leader than at many recent demonstrations, appeared to have been prompted by a belief the soldier, 20-year-old Mohammad Ali Radwan al-Qoman, had been tortured by security forces.

"Freedom, freedom Syria, Bashar get out," people chanted, their slogans audible in a telephone call with one of the mourners at the funeral in Hirak, 33 km (20 miles) north-east of the southern city of Deraa.

"Write on the keffiyeh (headdress), Bashar is Syria's traitor," they also chanted.

A relative, who declined to be named, said Qoman's family was told he was accidentally electrocuted at his military unit near Damascus.

But he said Qoman, a military conscript, had signs of beating to his feet and doctors at the local hospital said there were indications of torture.

Rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed since demonstrations for greater freedom erupted Syria last month, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

Assad has promised to lift emergency law, in place for nearly 50 years, but in a speech to his new cabinet Saturday he did not address protesters' demands to curb Syria's pervasive security apparatus and dismantle its authoritarian system.

(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Sophie Hares)