AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian state television broadcast an interview on Tuesday with a young woman it said Amnesty International reported last month was dead, a possible victim of violence while in state custody.
Zainab al-Hosni, 18, from the city of Homs, where protests have been mounted against the continued rule of President Bashar al-Assad, was found in a morgue by her family, Amnesty said last month. She had been decapitated, her arms cut off and skin removed, the human rights group said.
Syrian television aired what it said was an interview with Hosni, showing she was still alive, and produced what it said was her identity card. It said her death had been fabricated to “serve foreign interests.”
“I came today to the police to say the truth. I am alive in contrast to what the lying satellite television stations had said,” the woman said in the interview.
Activists said in postings on the social-networking site Facebook that the woman was a lookalike.
It was impossible to independently verify the identity of the woman shown on television — Syrian authorities have banned most independent media from the country — and officials from Amnesty International were not immediately available for comment.
Amnesty said last month that Hosni’s mutilated body was discovered by chance by her family in a morgue in Homs while there to identify her brother’s corpse.
She was abducted by men suspected of belonging to the security forces in July in an apparent attempt to put pressure on her activist brother Mohammad Deeb al-Hosni to turn himself in, the organization said.
Both died, Amnesty said, bringing the number of reported deaths in custody to 103 cases since pro-democracy protests in Syria broke out in March.
The woman shown by Syrian state television said she had escaped from home two months ago and went to live with a relative because she was abused by her brothers, and that her family did not know she was alive.
The official state news agency said that although state media have revealed the true story of Hosni and other cases, international media continue to try and undermine “the Syrian leadership, which is bent on executing a comprehensive reform program and preserve security of the homeland and citizens.”
The army deployed in Homs, Syria’s third largest, after large pro-democracy protests several months ago. Demonstrations have continued despite a fierce crackdown and tensions surfaced between majority Sunni and minority Alawite inhabitants.
Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Michael Roddy