Syr­ian deputy min­is­ter de­fects, slams As­sad

Oil of­fi­cial urges col­leagues to get out

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY ZEINA KARAM

BEIRUT | Syria’s deputy oil min­is­ter de­fected and posted his part­ing words to Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad in a video on Youtube Thurs­day, call­ing the regime crim­i­nal and urg­ing his col­leagues to also aban­don the “sink­ing ship.”

Abdo Husamed­dine’s de­fec­tion came at the height of in­ter­na­tional pres­sure against Mr. As­sad’s regime as it tries to sup­press an up­ris­ing now mor­ph­ing into an armed in­sur­gency, with the U.S. con­sid­er­ing op­tions for mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

The deputy min­is­ter is the high­es­trank­ing civil­ian of­fi­cial to aban­don the regime since the re­volt against Mr. As­sad’s iron-fisted rule be­gan a year ago.

“I don’t wish to end my life ser­vic­ing the crimes of this regime,” Mr. Husamed­dine said in the video, dressed in a suit and tie and ap­par­ently read­ing from a piece of pa­per.

“This is why I have cho­sen to join the voice of right­eous­ness, know­ing that this regime will burn my home, per­se­cute my fam­ily and come up with a lot of lies.

“I ad­vise my col­leagues who have been silent in the face of crimes for a year to aban­don this sink­ing ship which is about to drown,” Mr. Husamed­dine said.

It was not clear when or where the video was made and he did not dis­close his cur­rent lo­ca­tion. There was no com­ment from the regime in Da­m­as­cus.

“I de­clare that I am join­ing the rev­o­lu­tion of the dig­ni­fied peo­ple,” Mr. Husamed­dine said.

“You have in­flicted on those you claim are your peo­ple a full year of sor­row and sad­ness, and de­nied them their ba­sic rights to life and hu­man­ity and pushed the coun­try to the edge of the abyss with your in­tran­si­gence and de­tach­ment from re­al­ity. The econ­omy of the coun­try has reached near col­lapse,” he added.

Mr. Husamed­dine iden­ti­fied him­self as an en­gi­neer and as­sis­tant to the oil min­is­ter. He said he was a mem­ber of the rul­ing Baath Party, but was now quit­ting, and added he had served 33 years in var­i­ous gov­ern­ment po­si­tions.

Cab­i­net min­is­ters in Syria may have sev­eral as­sis­tants known as deputies.

Mr. As­sad’s regime has suf­fered a steady stream of army de­fec­tors, who have joined a group of dis­si­dents known as the Free Syr­ian Army, now num­ber­ing in the thou­sands. But civil­ian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have re­mained largely loyal.

That made Mr. Husamed­dine’s de­fec­tion all the more rare.

Among nu­mer­ous mil­i­tary de­fec­tions re­cently was that of Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ah­mad al-sheik, who fled to Turkey in Jan­uary, be­com­ing the high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cer to bolt.

In late Au­gust, Ad­nan Bakkour, the at­tor­ney gen­eral of the cen­tral city of Hama, ap­peared in a video an­nounc­ing he had de­fected from the regime. Au­thor­i­ties re­ported he had been kid­napped and said he was be­ing kept against his will by gun­men. He has not been heard from since.

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