"Bashar is God! Bashar is God!"
As the fists and boots and sticks pummelled his body and bloodied his face, the college student screamed out what he thought his interrogators wanted to hear: The name of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.
It worked. The secret policemen tired of beating him for the day and threw him back into the makeshift cell, a room inside the power station in Banias, where local prisons are full to bursting from a wave of arrests ahead of the military assault on the port city, which began earlier this month.
The respite was short-lived. Handcuffed by his wrists and ankles and blindfolded, the student, who gave testimony to a trusted local activist on condition of anonymity, was led to a car and driven to another torture cell.
"I was being beaten all over my body. I was bleeding and was saying the shahada to myself, ‘There is no God, but God,' because I thought I was going to die at that moment," he said.
Arrested simply for trying to travel from Banias back home to his village on the outskirts of the city, the student had nothing valuable to tell his torturers about the organised political opposition to President Assad and his family's forty-year dictatorship.
But that, it appears, was not the point.
Where the torture cells of Tadmor, Syria's desert prison, once extracted confessions from individuals accused of standing against the Assads - Communists like Akram Bunni, left partially paralysed after his spine was stretched in a torture known as the German Chair; Muslim Brotherhood members whipped with cable and stunned with electric shock devices - today's torturers appear to be pursuing a policy of deterrence and collective punishment.
The student was released after only a few days, but the message to the wider community of Banias was clear: A naked body, covered in blood, left to limp along the long road back to his village, clutching his broken hand, for all to see.
Three other young men, beaten, thrown down stairs and forced to drink water from a toilet after being starved, were also dumped naked and bloodied on a road outside Banias.
A YouTube video, claiming to have been shot in Banias but which cannot be independently verified, shows men with signs of severe beating on their backs and faces.
"Syrian security is now releasing detainees with unhealed wounds caused by torture in order to spread panic and fear among people hoping it will reduce the numbers participating in demonstrations," said Wissam Tarif, Director of Insan, a leading Syrian human rights organisation, which has documented cases of torture.