Death in detention of activist Ghiyath Matter

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Today, the body of Ghiyath Mattar, 26, was returned to his family in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. Ghiyath was a leading activist in Daraya who played a key role in organizing antigovernment protests (his photo is attached). A friend of Ghiyath who saw his upper body today said that there were bruises on the chest, and his face had traces of wounds. Security forces (most likely Air Force intelligence according to friends and relatives) had detained Ghiyath on September 6 with another leading protest organizer in Daraya, Yahya Sharbaji. Given the death in detention of Ghiyath, Human Rights Watch is gravely concerned about the wellbeing of Yahya. It is very important to publicize the case of Yahya in the hope that it provides him with some sort of protection. The friends and family of Yahya are very worried about his fate.

Below are the details as documented by Human Rights Watch so far:

In the early hours of September 6, security forces detained Yahya Sharbaji, a leading non-violent protest organizer in Daraya, and his friend Ghiyath Mattar, from their car while driving to the Damascus suburb of Sehnaya, according to one of Sharbaji’s relatives who lives in Sehnaya and saw the security forces’ cars chasing them. Sharbaji last called home at 7 a.m., then both men stopped answering their phones within 20 minutes of their departure. Mattar’s family later received a phone call from an air force intelligence officer, who said he captured the pair and threatened to harm them.

Sharbaji had been hiding from the security forces since March 15, when security forces seized his ID card, camera, and mobile phone at a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Interior. He set out with Mattar to Sehnaya after he had received a call from his brother Mohammad (known as Ma`en) Sharbaji, at 5 a.m. that day, telling him he had been shot by the security forces after they raided the house and arrested three of his friends. Activists and friends believe that security forces had detained Ma`en and forced him to make the call, a common security force tactic, as he can also not be found. Mattar’s body was returned to his family on September 10 after he was tortured to death in detention, according to activists who saw his body.

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