[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Syrian-Kurdish cleric found dead
Burnt out car in Syrian town of Qameshli
Unrest gripped Kurdish areas of Syria in March 2004
A popular Kurdish cleric has been found dead in eastern Syria three weeks after he went missing in Damascus.

A spokesman for the Yakiti Party said Sheikh Muhammad al-Khaznawi's sons had been called to a hospital in Deir al-Zour to identify the cleric's body.

The sons said there were signs on his body that he had been tortured, the spokesman told the BBC.

The banned Yakiti Party is blaming the government for his death and is calling for an official investigation.

The Syrian authorities say several suspected abductors have been arrested and have confessed, the official Syrian news agency reports.

"The results of the investigation confirm that the murder was purely criminal and that Sheikh Khaznawi had not been arrested by any security body as some sources and ill-intentioned media said," the agency quoted an official as saying.

Correspondents say the sheikh was widely popular in Syria, and was known for teaching tolerance and the compatibility of Islam and democracy.

Thousands of Kurds have been holding regular demonstrations to demand information from the authorities about the sheikh since his disappearance.

Syrian Kurds - who make up about 10% of the country's 17 million people - complain of discrimination and demand the right to speak their language.


SEE ALSO:
Syria clamps down on Kurd parties
03 Jun 04 |  Middle East
Syria frees jailed Kurdish activists
22 Feb 04 |  Middle East
Syria anniversary demo broken up
08 Mar 04 |  Middle East
Country profile: Syria
10 Feb 04 |  Country profiles


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific