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Saudi Arabia detains Syrian over Facebook photo supporting Assad

Saudi authorities arrested a Syrian resident in Riyadh after he posted a photo of himself hailing the Syrian government's recapture of Aleppo
Children play in the government-held Aleppo neighbourhood of Salaheddin

A Syrian man was arrested by Saudi police in Riyadh on Friday after he published a photo of himself on Facebook praising Syrian government forces for retrieving his home city of Aleppo from the rebels, according to a report in al-Riyadh newspaper on Friday.

A photo published with the report showed a man with his hand raised and his fingers pointed in a victory sign. His facial features were blurred to conceal his identity, Reuters reported.

The newspaper said the man, identified as being in his 40s, was accused of publishing statements related to the war in Syria. 

Saudi Arabia is a strong supporter of the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The rebels suffered a sobering loss this week, when Syrian government forces - backed by Iran, Russia and Shia militias - advanced in Syria’s second city Aleppo, breaking the rebels’ resistance. The rebels have controlled the eastern section of Aleppo since 2012.

Syria's government said the evacuation of Aleppo had been suspended on Friday due to "obstructions", after reports of an attack on a column leaving the rebel-held area of the city.

On Thursday, Gulf Arab countries condemned the Syrian government's handling of a ceasefire and evacuation in Aleppo and called for the protection of civilians trying to flee the war-torn city.

Public expressions of dissent on social media are considered criminal offences in the conservative Saudi kingdom, which has jailed people both for physical protests and for online statements.

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