UK: Secret service accused over arrest of two Britons in Syria

UK: Secret service accused over arrest of two Britons in Syria

British intelligence officers were complicit in the detention of two UK citizens currently being held in Syria, according to their families and a Labour peer.

Maryam Kallis, 36, from west London, and Yasser Ahmed, 28, from Woking, Surrey, were arrested eight weeks ago on consecutive days in Damascus by Arab plainclothes officers.

The British government says it does not know why the pair were detained, as the Syrian authorities refuse to reveal their reasons. But Lord Ahmed, a Labour life peer who is representing the families, said he had been told last week by a senior official at the Syrian Embassy in London that other British agencies – and not the Foreign Office – had been involved in the detention.

He said: "I was told that the Syrians were in contact with the British authorities. When I asked if that meant the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – which would be normal – they said no, but would not identify who."

Yasser Ahmed's father, Ahmad Zahur Qureshi, said he had been told by a ­reliable source who had spoken to Syrian diplomats that the arrests had been "British-driven" and related to "terrorism allegations".

Saima Zahur, the arrested man's sister, said: "The Foreign Office could not reassure me that the British secret services were not involved. I have told them that as a family we feel utterly betrayed. We are a non-controversial British family."

Maryam Kallis's husband, Masood, said his wife was suffering a form of "mental torture" by being separated from their three children. "If it was a Jane and John who were missing, the prime minister would have been involved by now."

Both Mrs Kallis and Mr Ahmed have been denied access to lawyers and are understood to have been moved between a number of Syrian jails. The foreign secretary, David Miliband, raised the case with Syrian ministers last Friday, asking for them to be released or charged.

British embassy staff have only visited the pair twice in nearly 60 days, the last time being almost three weeks ago for 15 minutes. They told Mrs Kallis's family that she had been "very emotional" and looked frail and tired, while Mr Ahmed was "under strain". No more visits by British diplomats have been agreed, no trial has been set or charges mooted. "If she has done something wrong, she should be put in front of a court of law, not held like this," said Masood Kallis.

Foreign Office sources said they could not comment on allegations of security service involvement. The Syrian ambassador, Dr Sami Khiyami, said he was not aware of any British intelligence officers colluding in the case. He said both detainees "were in good shape".


Source: Observer (English), h/t News from Syria

See also: Lebanon: Swedish-Lebanese arrested on terror charges

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