Syria envoy summoned over dissident harassment
LONDON (Reuters) - The Foreign Office called in Syria's ambassador to London on Thursday to protest about alleged intimidation of Syrian dissidents in Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
Ambassador Sami Khiyami was told that "any harassment or intimidation of Syrians in our country is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Hague told parliament.
Syrian diplomats in foreign capitals are mounting campaigns of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside Syrian embassies, rights group Amnesty International said this month.
Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad have been holding regular protests in Paris and London to demand an end to Assad's rule.
Amnesty said it had documented cases of more than 30 activists in eight countries -- Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States -- who had faced some form of direct intimidation.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said Britain would take "appropriate action" if there was evidence of harassment by Syrian diplomats and encouraged anyone who had experienced harassment or intimidation to report this to the police.
"They continue to investigate allegations and we are working with them closely," he said in a statement.
A Syrian demonstrator in London told Reuters earlier this month that he had been called by the Syrian embassy in June and warned because he was protesting.
"They said: 'We can get you and your family. We know you are in England but we can get you here. Do not think you are out of our reach.', they told me," Ghaias AlJundi, 43, said.
The Foreign Office previously called in Khiyami over similar allegations in June and France has said it will not tolerate Syria intimidating opposition activists on French soil.
Khiyami denied that the London Embassy was involved in any harassment in his meeting with Geoffrey Adams, the political director at the Foreign Office, according to a Syrian embassy spokesman.
"The ambassador emphasised the fact that the embassy is in total respect for the Vienna convention (on diplomatic relations) and for British sovereignty. We deny all these false allegations ... There is no evidence on this at all," he said.
He said the British side had apologised over an incident last weekend when, according to reports, anti-Assad protesters got on to the roof of the Syrian embassy in London, daubed yellow paint on the wall and replaced the Syrian flag with a Kurdistan flag before police arrested three of them.
A Foreign Office spokesman said it was extremely regrettable that a police delay in responding had allowed the incident to happen and the police had taken extra measures to prevent it happening again.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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