Syria frees 61 female prisoners in hostage exchange
Dozens of female detainees were quietly freed by Syrian authorities, activists and a lawyer have said – the latest in a three-way prisoner exchange made more remarkable because rival factions largely oppose any bartered deals in the civil war.
Simultaneously, a Syrian court ordered the release of Tal al-Mallohi, a prominent young Syrian blogger who was convicted of spying for a foreign country, said her Damascus-based lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni.
The 61 women were released on Wednesday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most of them were released from Damascus' central prison and from lock-ups in military compounds, al-Bunni said, citing information from human rights lawyers.
Al-Bunni and the rights group said the release was part of a complicated hostage swap last week that had been brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority. In the deal, Syrian rebels freed nine Lebanese Shiite Muslims, while Lebanese gunmen simultaneously released two Turkish pilots.
Lebanese officials earlier said a third part of the deal called for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to free a number of female detainees to meet the rebels' demands.
Lebanese officials weren't available for comment.
Syrian officials would not comment. They do not acknowledge any contact with the rebels, apparently worried that it would tacitly acknowledge their legitimacy.