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‘Savage beatings’ in Syria prisons

Al-Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz, jailed in Syria three days before being sent to Iran, spoke on the Qatari news channel of “savage beatings” of prisoners by security agents who behaved like “thugs.”

“I was in a Syrian detention centre for three days, two nights, and what I heard were just savage beatings,” Ms Parvaz said after arriving in Qatar on Wednesday.

“I felt I was away from all eyes of the law ... I didn’t see anybody monitoring anything, nobody even wore a uniform, nobody had a name, nobody had a responsibility ... I would classify a number of those men there as thugs almost... just watching their behaviour,” said Ms Parvez.

On Wednesday, Al-Jazeera said Parvaz, 39, has “been released, and is safe and in good health,” adding that she had returned to Doha from Iran, following her disappearance after having flown in to Damascus on April 29. Syrian authorities had said she was expelled to Iran for travelling on an expired Iranian passport.

Syrian authorities have sealed off the country to most international media as they crack down on protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government that erupted two months ago.

“In one cell I was with a teenage girl who’d been there for almost 10 days, weeping hysterically that she couldn’t contact her parents ... and she had just been picked up off the street, said Ms Parvaz.

“Another woman I spoke to, she was wearing stilettos in her cell. Obviously this is not what you wear if you’re going to a big street protest,” she said.

The women were held in a “small, filthy cell,” said the journalist.

“At a certain point you want to cover your ears – it seemed endless, mid-morning to late at night. At random times you would hear beatings and screams and cries,” Ms Parvaz said. “It seemed that Syria just want everyone to cover their ears.”

Syrian authorities accuse Al-Jazeera and other international satellite channels of exaggerating protests and of broadcasting images without verifying their authenticity.

Because few foreign journalists can get in to Syria, international media rely heavily on video footage filmed and released by the protesters themselves on internet sites such as YouTube.

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