Syria frees political prisoners in Eid gesture

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Damascus, Jul 18: Syrian authorities have released more than 200 prisoners, many of whom were detained under "anti-terror" laws, to mark the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, a lawyer told AFP.

Dozens of women were among 240 detainees who were released yesterday, said attorney and leading human rights activist Michel Shammas. Most of the prisoners in Syrian jails being prosecuted under "anti-terror" laws are opponents of the Syrian government or those who have taken part in the uprising that began in March 2011.

Syria frees political prisoners

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, also reported the releases, but put the number of freed detainees at around 350. The monitor said most of them were people who had been arrested at anti-government demonstrations.

"Syrian authorities released more than 240 prisoners from Adra prison (near Damascus), most of whom were tried before what is know as the anti-terrorism court," Shammas told AFP late yesterday.

Among those freed was prominent Syrian blogger Hussein Ghreir, who was arrested in February 2012 along with fellow activists Mazen Darwish and Hani Zaitani and accused of "promoting terrorist acts." A friend of Ghreir's, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the blogger was "at his home in Damascus and is in good health".

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According to the Observatory, some 200,000 people are being detained by government forces in Syria in detention centres, prisons and security facilities. Among them are thousands of people who have effectively disappeared since being detained, with their families unsure where they are being held.

According to the Observatory, nearly 13,000 Syrians, including dozens of children, have been tortured to death in government prisons since March 2011. Last year, President Bashar al-Assad signed an amnesty that was supposed to see tens of thousands of political prisoners freed, but rights activists say that only several hundred were actually released. 

AFP

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