Berlin authorities are investigating an attack that took place on Dec. 26 on a local politician of Syrian origin who is a member of the Syrian opposition. At around 2 a.m. on Monday morning, Ferhad Ahma was attacked by two unidentified assailants who had come to his door and identified themselves as police. The attackers apparently beat the 37-year-old with clubs, leaving him covered with bruises and other injuries.
The Green Party chapter in the city's Mitte district, as well as a group of opponents of the regime of Bashar Assad, suspect the Syrian secret service may have been behind the attack on Ahma, who is a party member and active in city politics. Green Party members said their theory was supported by the fact that Ahma said his attackers appeared to be of Arab origin and that Ahma had previously received threats.
Volker Beck, a senior member of the Green Party's group in the national parliament said that Ahma is a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. Beck has called on German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to meet with the Syrian ambassador to discuss the incident. "It cannot be accepted that members of the Syrian opposition in Germany are hunted, persecuted and intimidated by Syrian services," the he said. Beck added that Ahma should be provided with state protection in the future.
A spokeswoman at the Foreign Ministry said that German diplomats are aware of the incident and of the accusations against Syria. She said the ministry is in "contact with the responsible investigative authorities and has made clear its interest in a quick and comprehensive investigation of the incident." Berlin police have also confirmed that charges have been filed in the case, although the background remains unresolved. The investigation has been taken over by a police unit responsible for probing incidents that may be politically motivated.
A 'Cowardly Attack'
The website of the influential German weekly Die Zeit quoted both Jutta Schauer-Oldernburg, the spokeswoman for the Green Party in the Mitte district city council, and former federal health minister Andrea Fischer as condemning "the cowardly attack by the Syrian secret service." Given earlier threats and the fact that the two attackers who refused to identify themselves were Arab in appearance, "one has to fear that we are dealing with employees of the Syrian secret service who are seeking to intimidate Ahma, who is active in the Syrian opposition," they said. The politicians called for immediate political action to be taken.
Schauer-Oldernburg and Fischer said they were "shaken and angry about the insidious attack," adding that it shows "the Syrian regime is even persecuting those who desire democracy and progress abroad." They said Assad could not be allowed to intimidate members of the Syrian opposition in Germany.
In Syria, Assad's army has been conducting a massive crackdown against the democratic movement there. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in March.
On Tuesday, Assad's army withdrew its tanks following the arrival of Arab League monitors in Homs, the city at the heart of the anti-regime uprising. The Syrian army had reportedly been shelling the city for days. Tens of thousands of Syrians reportedly took to the streets on Tuesday in protest against Assad, emboldened by the arrival of the monitors. However, activists claimed that Assad's forces continued firing on them.
His regime officially yielded to demands by the Arab League on Dec. 19, announcing it would allow independent observers into the country. The Arab League is hoping to end hostilities within nine months through negotiations between the Assad regime and the opposition. But nothing has changed since Assad promised an end to the violence months ago.
Assad's opponents now fear he will use the mission to create the illusion abroad that he is respectable and upstanding, while continuing the violent crackdown against the protests.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that security forces killed 15 people across the country on Tuesday, including six people in Homs, news agency Reuters reported. It also cited an activist network claiming that 34 people had been killed on Monday.