State Dept. calls in Syrian envoy for harassing protesters
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State Dept. calls in Syrian envoy for harassing protesters

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The State Department called in Syria’s U.S. ambassador over reports that his staff was spying on peaceful demonstrators in the United States.

In a July 8 statement, the State Department said that Imad Moustapha had been called in two days earlier by Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security.

"We received reports that Syrian mission personnel under Ambassador Moustapha’s authority have been conducting video and photographic surveillance of people participating in peaceful demonstrations in the United States," the statement said.

"The United States Government takes very seriously reports of any foreign government actions attempting to intimidate individuals in the United States who are exercising their lawful right to freedom of speech as protected by the U.S. Constitution," it said. "We are also investigating reports that the Syrian government has sought retribution against Syrian family members for the actions of their relatives in the United States exercising their lawful rights in this country and will respond accordingly."

The U.S. envoy to Syria, Robert Ford, has infuriated authorities there by traveling to regions where Syrian authorities are cracking down on democracy protestors. State Department officials have noted that Moustapha is free to travel wherever he wants in the United States.