A Northern Virginia man has been indicted on charges of working as an agent for the Syrian intelligence service and gathering information about people protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to court papers unsealed Wednesday morning.
Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, a 47-year-old from Leesburg, was arrested Tuesday and is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a federal judge in Alexandria Wednesday afternoon. He was charged with conspiring to act in the United States on behalf of a foreign government.
“Soueid and others conspired to use this information to undermine, silence, intimidate and potentially harm those in the United States and Syria who engaged in the protests,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The indictment alleges that Soueid, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, this year e-mailed audio and video recordings of protests in the United States and in Syria to a Syrian intelligence operative. In a hand-written letter attached to an e-mail sent to the operative, Soueid wrote that violence against protesters and raiding their homes was justified, the indictment said.
In June, Soueid even flew to Syria and met privately with al-Assad, the indictment alleges.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said the allegations were part of a “desperate effort” by the Assad government to stifle protesters.
The government’s “efforts to monitor and silence protestors here in the United States will do nothing to satisfy men and women in Syria who are yearning for democracy and freedom,” said the spokesman, Tommy Vietor.
The Syrian Embassy in Washington rejected the allegations, saying Soueid never worked for the government.
“The accusation that a U.S. citizen is working with the Syrian Government to intimidate U.S. citizens is absolutely baseless and totally unacceptable,” the embassy said in a statement.
The embassy said the contention that Soueid had a private meeting with Assad was “ludicrous” and “a reflection of the poor quality of the whole set of allegations.”
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.