Syrian legislator from Aleppo defects to Turkey

AMMAN Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:19am EDT

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AMMAN (Reuters) - A Syrian parliamentarian representing the northern province of Aleppo said on Friday she has defected to Turkey, becoming the first member of the rubberstamp assembly elected in May and dominated by President Bashar al-Assad's Baath Party to defect.

"I have crossed to Turkey and defected from this tyrannical regime ... because of the repression and savage torture against a nation demanding the minimum of rights," Ikhlas al-Badawi told Sky News Arabia.

Opposition sources Syrian troops and armor are amassing around the northern city of Aleppo, Syrian's main commercial and industrial hub, to crush armed resistance to Assad that has been gathering momentum following a military crackdown on street demonstrations against his rule.

The authorities chose Badawi, a Sunni Muslim, to run for parliament on behalf of the "laborers and peasants" sector, a term for state backed labor and farmers unions who are guaranteed half the seats in the 250 seat assembly.

Badawi, a mother of six, was also a member of the Baath Party, which took power in 1963 military coup that destroyed the country's democratic institutions in favor of a Soviet style political system dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Intensified ground and aerial bombardment on Syrian cities by Assad's forces in recent weeks has prompted diehard Baathists and Assad's loyalists to defect.

They have been mostly Sunni Muslim, from the majority sect at the forefront of the 16-month uprising against Assad.

Nawaf al-Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq and a former Baath Party chief in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, fled to Qatar through Jordan two weeks ago.

Fares, according to opposition sources, is a friend of Manaf Tlas, a brigadier general in the Republican Guards and a member of Assad's inner circle, who fled Syria earlier this month.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Paul Simao)

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