The Justice Department has charged a Syrian-born U.S. citizen with spying on Americans demonstrating against Syria’s Assad regime and passing that information on to Syria intelligence officers to intimidate the protesters.
Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, 47, of Leesburg, Va., conspired to collect video and audio recordings of the protesters as well as their email addresses and phone numbers, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Mr. Soueid acted as an agent of Syria’s intelligence agencies, known as the Mukhabarat, and provided information to an individual who worked at the Syrian Embassy in Washington, according to the indictment.
The Syrian Embassy said the indictment is based on “sheer lies and fabrications.”
Hamdi Rifai, director of Arab Americans for Democracy in Syria, received a warning from Syria's Ministry of Information soon after he took part in an anti-Assad protest in Washington in March at which he was photographed.
“The degree of monitoring of Syrians is unlike any other country in the world,” he said.
The protesters’ families have not been spared. Syrian-American pianist Malek Jandali said his elderly parents were beaten by intelligence agents in the city of Homs in western Syria after he took part in a protest outside the White House in July.
“While my mom was being beaten, the security personnel told her, ‘This is to teach you a lesson on how to raise your kid. That’s what you get when someone demonstrates against us,’” Mr. Jandali said.
Mr. Soueid was arrested Tuesday, and a federal magistrate on Wednesday ordered him to be held pending a detention hearing Friday. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
He originally was charged by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Oct. 6 on six counts: conspiracy to act and acting as an agent of the Syrian government in the U.S. without notifying the attorney general as required by law, two counts of providing false statements on a firearms-purchase form, and two counts of providing false statements to federal law enforcement.
The Syrian Embassy said in a statement provided to The Washington Times that Mr. Soueid is not a Syrian government agent, did not take orders from Syrian officials, and never provided any embassy employee with information about protesters.
“The accusation that a U.S. citizen is working with the Syrian government to intimidate U.S. citizens is absolutely baseless and totally unacceptable,” it added.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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