Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—An unconfirmed number of female prisoners were released by the Syrian government on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a three-way detainee swap brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt.
The ambitious prisoner exchange also involved Syrian rebels freeing nine Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims and Lebanese gunmen releasing two Turkish pilots.
While no official statements have been issued by the Bashar Al-Assad government regarding the deal, several opposition sources confirmed the release of the female prisoners.
The precise details regarding the number of female prisoners released by the Damascus regime remain unconfirmed with the BBC saying that 48 female prisoners have been released, while Reuters reported that 61 prisoners have been freed.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that this prisoner release represents the first batch of the total 128 prisoners set to be released as part of this three-way deal.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ambassador of the International Organization for Human Rights Ali Aqil Khalil said that Tal Al-Mallouhi, the Syrian blogger detained one year before the March 2011 uprising, is set to be released as part of the deal.
“A presidential amnesty will soon be issued in Syria and will affect hundreds of prisoners who have not been involved in the bloodshed,” Khalil said.
The release of the first batch of prisoners came after many anti-Assad activists lost hope of Damascus complying with the detainee swap deal.
President of the Syrian Association of Human Rights, Abdulkarim Rehawi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the delay “was due to reasons relating to the prisoners’ health conditions.”
“The regime initially refused to comply to the time-frame set for releasing the prisoners, choosing to free them in batches to allow their health to improve,” Rehawi said.
“They are all suffering from extremely difficult health conditions,” he added.
“The prisoners have not left Syria; those who have been released were being held by the political security administration of [Damascus’s] Adra Prison. They were brought to the capital where the mayor met with them before they were returned to their families in Syria,” Rehawi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
According to the president of the Syrian Association of Human Rights, the majority of the estimated 4,200 female prisoners being held by the Assad regime are subjected to “catastrophic humanitarian conditions,” adding “this requires international intervention.”