Ex-Attorney-General Bakkour 'Survives Attack'

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Even as they squabble, both Israel and Turkey are keeping a nervous eye on their common neighbor, Syria. The Syrian government continues to crackdown hard on descent. Today, there were reports of raids by security forces in towns and cities near the border with Turkey. One target of those raids may have been Adnan Bakkour. He was the attorney general in the protest hotbed of Hama. Last week he announced his defection from the Syrian government and then went into hiding. Now, there are reports that he may have been wounded in an attack by security forces in northwestern Syria. Reporter Ben Gilbert has been following the story of Adnan Bakkour from Beirut. Ben, what is the latest on Mr. Bakkour?

Ben Gilbert: Mr. Bakkour made an audio tape in the last 24 hours that says basically that he was attacked by Shabiha. These are, this is another name, an Arabic name Syrians use for regime thugs basically. That they tried to get in his hideout and that four of his bodyguards were killed. He was injured. And let's hear a little bit of that tape.

Adnan Bakkour: [speaking Arabic]

Werman: Now, Ben, this tape could not be independently verified, correct?

Gilbert: Correct, the Syrian authorities will not let many journalists, if any journalists at all, into Syria and we cannot independently verify this tape.

Werman: So what do the Syrian authorities say in public about Adnan Bakkour and his story?

Gilbert: Well, last week when he first announced his resignation he said that he had evidence, that there were 72 prisoners killed at central prison in Hama in the past month. He says there was a mass grave in Hama province with 420 bodies. He said the government asked him to prepare a report to show that those victims were actually killed by the protestors. And he says that he has evidence for this. Now, when he announced this on YouTube the Syrian government said that he had actually not defected, that he was being forced by the demonstrators...he had been kidnapped and was being forced by demonstrators to say all of these things at gunpoint. And that was last Tuesday and Wednesday. And later on Wednesday he came out with another video and said no, I'm not actually being forced to say this, I'm saying this and I'll make a live statement rather than being taped on YouTube when I get out of the country. So there's been this back and forth, and the Syrian government has really used their state news agency to go after him, or to go after demonstrators and deny all of these allegations and deny that he has actually defected and to say that he's kidnapped.

Werman: I mean the guy sounds so heroic, it's almost too much to be true. What about the Syrian claims that he was kidnapped and forced into making those statements? I mean what are your Syria watcher friends say about that?

Gilbert: Maybe there is someone off camera holding a gun to his head. I don't think anyone knows 100% for sure. It seems likely that he is telling the truth given the fact that he went on the video and said today is Wednesday, last week, when he said it's Wednesday and I am denying broadcast reports that say that I've been kidnapped. That was pretty powerful to begin with. At the same time, we can't be 100% sure until perhaps he makes it to Turkey and can actually speak with people live and in person, and reporters and other people can verify that there's no one around him intimidating him or forcing him to make statements he doesn't want to make.

Werman: Reporter, Ben Gilbert, in Beirut bringing us up to date on the hunt for Syrian defector, Adnan Bakkour. Ben, thanks very much.

Gilbert: Thank you, Marco.