Country Report

2008 Edition
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Freedom Alerts
Hundreds have been arrested and dozens killed in Syria in the last 48 hours, including a 12-year old boy. The boy was identified as Kasem Zuhair Alahmad and activists claimed Syrian forces killed him. Army forces went door to door arresting those who they suspected were participating in demonstrations. Authorities raided Hom on Sunday, where they killed 14 protesters, arrested hundreds and set up checkpoints.
Hundreds of Coptic Christians protested on May 9 after clashes between Christians and Muslims on May 7 left 12 people dead and more than 200 injured. Thousands gathered outside the Saint Mina Church in Cairo on May 7 and exchanged gunfire after it was rumored that a Christian woman and recent convert to Islam was being held inside the church against her will.
On May 8th, Cuban political prisoner Juan Wilfredo Soto died in Santa Clara, Cuba after he was reportedly detained and beaten by police. On May 5th, Soto was beaten while attempting to resist arrest during a protest and activists claim police are to blame for his death. Soto previously spent 12 years as a political prisoner and participated in a 134-day hunger strike last year to press for the release of political prisoners. Authorities have alleged that Soto died of pancreatitis but no death certificate has been released.
A UNESCO-sponsored event to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa on May 3 was hijacked by Ethiopian government officials according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). According to reports, Ethiopian officials threatened to shut down the event unless the agenda was amended to remove presentations critical of the government and to give more time to government-backed material. After the organizers refused, the government forcibly took control of the event on Tuesday, inserting participants friendly to the state and removing the scheduled participants.