BEIRUT: Syrian authorities have sentenced to death for "treason" an activist who was arrested in April and "brutally tortured," a Syrian human rights group said on Friday.
The death sentence is apparently the first to be reported since an uprising erupted last year against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has struck back by trying to crush dissent with deadly force.
Mohammed Abdelmawla al-Hariri handed the sentence by a military court where he faced charges of "high treason and contacts with foreign parties," said the Syrian League of the Defence of Human Rights.
The League dismissed the charges as "null and void" and said that Hariri, an engineer in his late 30s arrested on April 16, was "brutally tortured" and forced to make confessions.
It said Hariri was awaiting his execution in the notorious Saydnaya prison -- once identified by Amnesty International as "Syria's black hole" as inmates have limited access to the outside world.
"He was tortured from the first day of his arrest. They broke his backbone and authorities refused to give him the proper medical care," the League said in a statement.
Hariri was arrested after discussing on Al-Jazeera television the dire humanitarian and security situation in southern Daraa province, cradle of the anti-regime uprising that erupted in March 2011, the group said.
The League urged Syrian authorities to scrap the death sentence against Hariri.
It also called on the international community to intervene to halt "acts of violence, killings and torture committed by the security forces and regime militias."
Local and international rights groups have repeatedly denounced abuses in Syrian jails where they allege detainees are systematically tortured.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 25,000 Syrians are behind bars as part of the government's crackdown on dissent, which it says has killed more than 12,000 people. (AFP)