Beirut: The Syrian regime has transformed a military airport in Hama city into one of the country's most-feared prisons, where detainees are crammed into hangars and deadly torture is rife, activists, watchdogs and former inmates say.
Known as the site of a 1982 uprising which was crushed amid tens of thousands of deaths by President Bashar al-Assad's father and predecessor Hafez, Hama has also suffered in Syria's current uprising.
Activists in Hama took part in the modern uprising that broke out in March last year but following an almost six-week siege in the summer of 2011, the army and security forces took full control of the city.
Open dissent has since been nearly impossible, with detentions carried out almost daily by the security forces, monitors and activists say.
Those detained are often sent to Hama military airport, which is not only sending warplanes on air raids but also being used as a prison by the feared Air Force Intelligence service.
"The airport is known for being the place where the worst human rights abuses of all the detention centres are committed against detainees," a Hama-based activist who identified himself as Abu Ghazi told AFP via Skype.
"Detainees are tortured wherever they are taken, whether it's a security branch or a makeshift detention centre in a hospital," said Abu Ghazi.
"But the airport is terrifying. People pay bribes just to be transferred from there to other detention centres."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog that has documented rights violations in Syria since 2006, said the airport has become notorious "for the ugliest forms of torture and murder of detainees".
"After the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March last year, the authorities began to kill demonstrators and launch a frenzied crackdown against anyone suspected of participating in the uprising," it said in a statement this week.