Attorney general of Syria's Hama defects
AMMAN (Reuters) - The attorney-general of the Syrian city of Hama said in a video posted on YouTube on Wednesday he had resigned in protest at the crackdown on pro-democracy protests, but authorities said he had been kidnapped.
"I, Judge Adnan Mohammad al-Bakkour, Hama province Attorney-General, declare that I have resigned in protest of the savage regime's practices against peaceful demonstrators," Bakkour said in a YouTube video released by activists.
An independent lawyer said the person who appeared in the video was Bakkour.
"What Syrian television is broadcasting about me being kidnapped by armed groups is totally false. I am in the protection of rebel inhabitants and in good health, today, Wednesday, 31 August. I will give live statements once I leave Syria soon," he said.
Syrian authorities expelled foreign media after pro-democracy street protests broke out in March, making it difficult to events in the country.
If confirmed, Bakkour's resignation would be the first high profile defection in the-five month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The official state news agency said on Monday that Bakkour had been kidnapped as he was traveling to work in a car on an agricultural road to the Justice Palace in Hama.
The agency said seven armed men in a Toyota pick-up truck intercepted Bakkour and kidnapped him with his driver and bodyguard as he was passing the village of Karnaz.
Bakkour, said in another video released earlier on Wednesday that he had resigned because security forces killed 72 imprisoned protesters and activists at Hama's central jail on the eve of the a military assault on the city on July 31, which he said killed at least another 420 people, many of whom were buried in mass graves in public parks.
Bakkour said the 72 prisoners were buried in Khaldiyia village in rural Hama near a Military Intelligence branch, which tried to pressure him to write a report that the other 420 people killed in the assault on the city were killed by armed groups, whom the authorities also blame for most killings across the country.
Hama was the scene of a 1982 massacre, when forces loyal to Assad's father, late President Hafez al-Assad, overran the city to crush Islamist insurgents. Up to 30,000 people were killed in the assault.
"Bakkour began drawing attention to himself this month by challenging Military Intelligence to release hundreds of protesters," a Syrian activist said, referring to the secret police branch that has been key in crushing protests and containing dissent within the army.
Bakkour named Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar, a former intelligence operative, as directing the offensive on Hama, which lasted around 10 days.
Wearing a grey suit and sitting on a table behind a laptop, a Turkish coffee next to him, Bakkour listed names of 13 other intelligence and security police members in Hama province he said "committed the massacres against peaceful civilians."
"This is the truth about what has happened and what is happening in Hama. 'Do not think God is ignoring the deeds of the oppressors'," he said, concluding his statement with a verse from the Koran.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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Protesters respond to calls to defend their demonstration from possible police intervention. Slideshow