DAMASCUS: Syrian security forces unleashed a wave of "arbitrary detentions" and "excessive force" in cities where anti-regime protests flared in recent days, human rights organizations said Monday.
"Eleven people were detained Friday after a demonstration outside the Omayyed mosque in Damascus, and several others were arrested in the port city of Banias," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Wednesday, 32 demonstrators were arrested in Damascus at a peaceful rally calling for the release of political prisoners and accused the next day of "attacking the reputation of the state" and "inciting racism and sectarianism."
Security forces on Saturday arrested "dozens of protesters" in Daraa, where thousands attended the funerals of two of four people killed on the previous day’s violent crackdown against protests, a rights activist said.
The protests followed a call for a "Day of Dignity" from a Facebook group that has emerged as a major mobilizing force.
The protesters, who have been inspired by regime-changing revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, are demanding "freedom" and an end to 48 years of emergency laws in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory said Monday that "ten days ago four students were arrested at the Al-Bassel school in Duma, near Damascus, for writing (anti-regime) slogans on walls."
"The students left the classroom in handcuffs," said the rights body.
The Syrian Observatory condemned the "politics of arbitrary detentions" and called on the Syrian government to "immediately free all prisoners of conscience."
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch Monday accused Syrian authorities of using "excessive force" against anti-regime protesters, killing five people over the past three days in Daraa.
"The Syrian government has shown no qualms about shooting dead its own citizens for speaking out," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director.
The US-based rights watchdog said in a statement that "Syria should cease use of live fire and other excessive force against protesters" following the violence in Daraa, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital Damascus.
"Syrians have shown incredible courage in daring to protest publicly against one of the most repressive governments in the region, and they shouldn’t have to pay with their lives," Whitson said.
Activists said one person was killed Sunday and at least 100 were wounded when security force opened fire on protesters who went on a rampage in Daraa on the third consecutive day of demonstrations in the town.
They had reported four deaths in the preceding two days.
A Syrian official denied Sunday’s death, accusing "troublemakers" of fuelling unrest as cabinet ministers, dispatched by President Bashar Al-Assad, visited Daraa to pay condolences for the families of protesters killed earlier.