France probes tech firm accused of aiding Syria regime

Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary probe Thursday into the alleged involvement of French technology firm Qosmos in supplying Syria's regime with surveillance equipment, judicial sources said.

The investigation follows a suit filed by human rights groups against the firm which said that Qosmos may have been supplying equipment that helped President Bashar Al-Assad's regime spy on opposition forces.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights League (LDH) jointly filed the complaint with the Paris prosecutor on Wednesday.

"Western companies must know that they cannot sell this type of equipment to authoritarian regimes without being held accountable," said Michel Tubiana of the LDH.

Qosmos's website says its core expertise is in "technology that creates an information layer in communications networks, enabling detailed, real-time visibility into all IP (Internet Protocol) traffic as it crosses networks".

Benoit Chabert, a lawyer for the firm, told AFP on Wednesday that Qosmos had not yet seen the complaint filed against it but that it had been involved in no wrong-doing.

The French foreign ministry said Qosmos' last exports to Syria appeared to have taken place in late 2011, before the European Union in January banned exports of technology equipment that could be used against the opposition.

According to a tally by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 19,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since Assad sent in his troops to crush a a popular uprising that erupted in March last year.

French authorities opened a probe in May into the activities of Amesys, another French firm, after the FIDH and LDH accused it of providing surveillance equipment to Libya's now dead strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

The equipment, the groups said, was aimed at targeting "opponents, arresting them and putting them in prison, where they were tortured".

Amesys said after the probe was announced that it "very strongly denies the accusation of 'complicity in torture' and hopes to quickly be able to inform the investigating magistrate of the reality of the case".

The company had admitted in September that it supplied Kadhafi's regime with "analysis equipment" but noted the deal was made only after Libya had improved ties with the West and that it did not operate any surveillance.