Lebanon deported 14 Syrians on Wednesday despite the raging violence over the border, drawing criticism from human rights activists.
The Lebanese authorities said the reasons for the expulsions were not political but a Human Rights Watch representative in Beirut said some of the deportees had expressed feared of persecution on their return.
"Fourteen men were deported to Syria today, despite the fact that four of them had asked not to be deported for fear of persecution if handed over to the Syrian authorities," the HRW representative told AFP.
One of them might be a political activist, the representative said, noting that the detainee had contacted HRW prior to being handed over to Syrian authorities at the border and expressed fear about what might happen to him.
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"These people were handed over to the Syrian authorities because they had problems with the judiciary and had committed crimes, and as far as we know they were not political activists," the official said.
"If they were, we would not have deported them."
HRW said those who had requested not to be deported should have been given leave to stay -- regardless of whether they were politically active or not.
"We think that if someone has indicated a fear of persecution, they should not be deported," a HRW researcher said.
Human rights watchdogs accuse the Syrian authorities of resorting to torture and other ill-treatment against detainees.
In July, HRW charged that Syria was holding tens of thousands of detainees in a "torture archipelago" in which they were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and other abuse.