Fears for Syrian opposition activist after 'detention' on return to Damascus 'under mysterious circumstances'

Fears for Syrian opposition activist after 'detention' on return to Damascus 'under mysterious circumstances'
Mazen Alhummad, who was brutally tortured by the Syrian regime for taking part in anti-government protests, lived in exile after his release in 2014.
3 min read
24 February, 2020
Alhummada was arrested at Damascus airport immediately on arrival, the report said [Getty]
A Syrian human rights activist who lived in exile in the Netherlands after being brutally tortured by President Bashar Al-Assad's regime disappeared after returning to Damascus under "mysterious circumstances", a Syrian opposition news site reported on Sunday.  

Mazzen Alhummada was in Damascus on Saturday evening, after negotiating a "settlement" at the Syrian embassy in Berlin, according to Zaman Al-Wasl, .

Regime authorities arrested Alhummada at Damascus airport immediately on arrival and carried him away to an "unknown location", the report said.

Alhummada, from the Syrian eastern city of Deir ez Zor, studied at a technical institute for oil and gas and worked for a French company, when peaceful anti-government demonstrations swept through the city in 2012.

According to a Channel 4 documentary, Alhummad hailed from a left-wing family who had been targeted by the Syrian regime since the days of Hafez Al-Assad, the patriach of a family whose repressive military and security apparatus have governed Damascus for nearly half a century.

Alhummada was detained on two occasions in 2011, but the longest stint came in March 2012, when he was held for 19 months.

He was in a cafe with his nephews when the Syrian regime authorities abducted him.

They took him Mezze Military airport where he joined hundreds of other prisoners held in the regime's clandestine detention facilities.

There, he was subject to brutal interrogation.

Security services broke his ribs and suspended him from his wrists, in order to obtain false confessions, he told interviewers.

He was also sexually abused and tortured, the details of which are too graphic to publish.

In the documentary, he describes being transferred to an infamous military hospital known as "601", where piles of civilian corpses were strewn on the floor.

Many of his family members also disappeared in detention, Alhummada said.

On release in 2014, he sought asylum in the Netherlands, where he filed a war crime complaint against Al-Assad's regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

According to the Zaman Al-Wasl report, considering Alhummada's recent financial difficulties and deteriorating mental health, it is possible that the regime could have offered him a deal to release fellow detainees in exchange for his return to Damascus.

The decision may have also been spurred due to threats to his family, activists said.

In 2014, the Syrian Detainee Report, or Ceasar Report, detailed evidence of at least 11,000 prisoners murdered by the regime in Damascus during the early years of the Syria war.

The dossier was used by politicians in the US to form the Caesar Syria Civillian Protection, a defense-policy bill intended to hold the Assad regime and its financial backers responsible for the murder and torture of civillians.

The bill was cleared in the US Senate in December last year.

As many as 100,000 people have been detained or disappeared over the course of the civil war, according to UN estimates.

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