The student behind a hoax blog which claimed to be written by a gay woman in Syria has defended his actions.

Tom MacMaster, a US student at the University of Edinburgh, insisted that while the blog had been a fiction, the facts it contained were indeed true.

The 40-year-old married man's blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus, described life in the Syrian city amid the current political unrest. It rapidly gained a worldwide readership and was closely followed by news reporters.

The blog, which started in February this year, claimed to document the life of 25-year-old Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari, a half-Syrian, half-American lesbian living in Damascus.

Entries covered her social life and relationships, but "Amina" also criticised President Bashar al-Assad and spoke about her role in the growing anti-government protests.

Last Monday a post which was said to be written by Amina's cousin Araf, announced the girl had been seized by armed men believed to be members of President Assad's Baath party.

The news hit the headlines and various news agencies, bloggers and activists launched an online campaign to secure her release. However doubts slowly surfaced when different Damascus LGBT organisations insisted they had never heard of neither Amina nor her cousin.

On Sunday, an "apology to readers" appeared on the blog signed by Tom MacMaster - a 40-year-old American Middle East activist studying at Edinburgh University - who said he was "the sole author of all posts on this blog".

Mr MacMaster, who is on holiday in Istanbul, told BBC Scotland: "I really felt a number of years ago, in discussions on Middle East issues in the US, often when I presented real facts and opinions, the immediate reaction to someone with my name was: 'Why are you anti-American? Why are you anti-Jewish?'

"So I invented a name to talk under that would keep the focus on the actual issue."

Mr MacMaster said he had wanted people to listen to the facts without paying attention to "the man behind the curtain" and insisted he did not expect for the blog to be such a hit.

"From the beginning I never expected it to get anywhere near the attention it has.

"I thought when I was starting I would be read by four, five, maybe as many as 10 people", he told the BBC.

Mr MacMaster was however forced to acknowledge that his blog had effectively backed up the Assad regime claims that there were no problems in the country and that it was all "foreign lies ", which angered bloggers and activists within Syria.

He said: "However, the reality is that I have been in contact with a lot of people inside Syria and I have been following things very closely" while repeating that the most important thing was to "get the information out".

Mr MacMaster added: "People should stop focussing on the hoaxer and really be focussing on the most important people, the real people who are suffering in Syria."

During the interview with the BBC, the American blogger also apologised to the woman whose picture he used on the site, as she lived in London and had to deny any involvement with the blog: "I had an idea of what my character should like and one day I was flipping through something and I saw a picture of her and said 'that is the face'. I didn't think anyone would notice." Mac Master defended.