2 Syrian soldiers handed over to Syria, report

May 18, 2011
Al-Arabiya TV quoted on Tuesday an unnamed Lebanese security source as saying that two Syrian border guards, one dead and another injured, were handed over to the Syrian authorities.

"Handing them was based on a cooperation agreement between Syria and Lebanon,” the source said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nabil Halabi, head of the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said that "three wounded Syrian soldiers fled to Lebanon on Sunday, one of whom died before arriving to Lebanon, and are now in army custody.”

The Syrian soldiers reportedly refused to fire on civilians as ordered and defected to Lebanon after protecting refugees from the regime’s militia.

The soldiers were manning a border checkpoint on Sunday when a group of refugees seeking to escape the violence that has gripped the country for more than two months tried to cross into Lebanon. The refugees came under fire from an armed gang loyal to President Bashar al-Assad known as the Shabiha. The soldiers returned fire, and one was killed in a firefight. The other three escaped into Lebanon with the refugees.

Wissam Tarif, of human rights organisation Insan, told the Guardian on Monday: "The Lebanese military intelligence has detained those soldiers and they run the risk of being deported back to Syria.

"If those soldiers are deported to Syria then there is a serious risk of torture and execution,” he said, adding that sending them back to Syria would send the wrong message to other soldiers who may be tempted to defect because they don’t want to kill civilians. The human rights group Avaaz called on Lebanon to grant refugee status to the soldiers.

The decision to deport the Syrian soldiers reportedly came from president Michel Suleiman after he called the embattled Syrian president Bashar al Assad yesterday
Protests have rallied against Assad’s regime for more than two months.

More than 850 people have been killed and several thousands were arrested since the start of the protest movements in mid-March, human rights groups say. Thousands of Syrians have fled to Lebanon during the past two weeks.

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