PARIS — Two Syrian opposition activists unfurled an enormous rebel flag at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Friday and were briefly detained by police.

As a handful of supporters from the France Syria Democracy group rallied below, the two activists climbed scaffolding set up for maintenance works and released the flag, to applause from tourists gathered below.

The two activists, Ismael and Iyad Hashem -- sons of retired Syrian brigadier general Akil Hashem who lives in the United States -- were arrested after climbing down, following a complaint from the site's management, police said.

"The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of France. We came here because there are a lot of tourists and we want to attract the entire world's attention to what is happening in Syria," said one of the activists, Ibrahim Wetti.

Investigators later said the two men were released following orders from the public prosecutor's office.

"The police custody is linked to the complaint by the company managing the Eiffel Tower for 'violation of a commercial activity' and the 'right to work'," an investigator said.

The flag the men unfurled was the one adopted in 1946 after Syria first gained independence, which was later replaced by the country's Baathist regime.

Photo AFP/Arevalo