Scared, thin and in some circumstances bruised, a group of 30 men were told to crouch or kneel by a wall as armed men organised them into rows; barking orders and directing them with that no-nonsense air of people in control.
They said nothing, some looking down or hiding their faces as we were invited forward to film them.
The officer in charge shouted an order for the men to double-time towards a nearby house and then directed his men to secure the building.
We had not expected to see any of this on our trip into Syria’s Latakia Province in the north of the country.
But the prisoners are Syrian government police and soldiers and their captors the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Just a few months ago this was an unimaginable picture. The FSA did not have the men or the ability to capture anyone on this type of scale.
The FSA say they want to keep their prisoners to swap with their own captured comrades. Their commander insisted that they would come to no harm.
I told the men that they had no obligation to speak to us but they volunteered to do so. While I am aware we were in the presence of their captors, they seemed genuine on two basic points they made as a group.
First that they were ordered to kill anyone involved in the revolution and to clear out villages of anyone who disagreed with the government, either by killing them or forcing them to flee. These orders came from the top.
Secondly that they were told the FSA were foreign fighters and that Al Qaeda had taken over whole towns – a direct copy of the propaganda put out by Colonel Gaddafi and his henchmen last year in Libya.
“We had the idea that (opposition forces) were there to terrorise people, to kill children, to kill females and to kill everybody around, but… we noticed that the opposite was what was actually happening,” one of the soldiers told me.
“It is just not a war,” he added, saying that the shelling of towns and villages was random and killing the old and the young indiscriminately.
I asked a former Sergeant who gave the orders to carry out attacks on civilians. “It came for the highest level,” he said.
In Syria, the President runs everything. Even if the direct command did not come from him, his senior officers would at the very least be interpreting his expectations for putting down this uprising that is spiralling out of Basher Al Assad’s control.
A police officer asked to make a statement. He said that he, his men and the country had been lied too and called on all the security forces to join the Free Syrian Army. “I am ready to join,” he said.
This series of interviews are the first time independent media have had the opportunity to question security forces, who are not defectors, and get their opinions.
The sense I got is that they represent a growing feeling amongst the military that enough is enough. The FSA and many civilians certainly hope so, although the shelling of villages and the killing of civilians goes on unabated.
Source: Sky News