Published On: Wed, Dec 7th, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies brutality in Barbara Walters interview

ABC News will broadcast Barbara Walters’s interview with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The network hasn’t released the full transcript yet, but so far press releases suggest that the big news is that Assad is denying any responsibility for the almost 4,000 Syrians killed since the beginning of the uprising in February.

Photo/Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr

“[W]e don’t kill our people…[N]o government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person”, Assad tells Walters.

The Globe and Mail published some of the exchange:

“Why was there such a brutal crackdown?”, with his own question, “What happened?”

When Ms. Walters lists a series of well-documented cases – the torture and killing of 13-year old Hamza al-Khateeb; the beating of a political cartoonist who was left with both arms broken; the killing of a famous Syrian singer found with his throat cut – she presses the Syrian president: “You have seen this pictures have you not? …Is this news to you?”

Mr. Assad comes back to Ms. Walters saying that it is not news and that, in fact, he had met with the father of the 13-year-old boy who said he had not been tortured. After being detained by Syrian security forces in April, the boy’s body was returned to his family bearing evidence of torture. Photos of Hamza al-Khateeb circulated on the internet and the story of his torture and death motivated protesters to take to the streets.

“People went from house to house. Children were arrested. I saw those pictures,” Walters said to Assad.

“To be frank with you, Barbara, you don’t live here. How did you know all this…? This…you have to be here to see,” Assad said.

“Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa,” he adds.

Here’s what ABC has published:

“Every ‘brute reaction’ was by an individual, not by an institution, that’s what you have to know,” he said. “There is a difference between having a policy to crackdown and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference,” said Assad.

“But you have to give the order,” countered Walters.

“We don’t kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad said.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff 2011 wikimedia commons

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