BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels have captured an army colonel who tried unsuccessfully to stand in next month’s presidential election, according to an Internet video posted on Tuesday.
The video showed a man who identified himself as Mohammad Hassan Kanaan, with a military ID card bearing his name, who said he was captured by rebels on the road from Damascus to the southern province of Deraa.
Kanaan was named by Syria’s parliamentary speaker as one of 24 people who had nominated themselves to stand in the June 3 presidential election, which is widely expected to extend President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power.
Syria’s constitutional court ruled on Sunday that just three candidates - Assad and two others - had met the requirements to stand in the election. Assad’s opponents have denounced the vote as a farce in a country torn apart by war.
Tuesday’s video was posted in the name of the Tabarak al-Rahman brigade.
Flanked by two men in military uniform carrying rifles, and appearing tense as he answered questions put to him by one of the rebels, Kanaan said he had been asked to stand in the election by his commanding officer.
“When I refused, he threatened to eliminate members of my family one by one,” he said. Under questioning, he said other would-be candidates were also coerced into nominating themselves.
“It’s a political game and media fabrication,” he said.
Authorities have not said how they will hold the vote in a country where six million people have been displaced and large swathes of territory remain outside government control.
Another 2.5 million refugees have fled Syria, many smuggling themselves across the frontier to avoid Assad’s security forces.
Syria’s conflict started over three years ago as a peaceful protest movement calling for reforms but descended into civil war after a government crackdown.
Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Larry King