Middle East

Daughter of Syrian lawyer released under amnesty: lawyer

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows some of the 274 inmates being processed prior to their release from the Damascus Central Prison on June 11, 2014. "AFP PHOTO / HO / SANA"

BEIRUT: The jailed daughter of a prominent Syrian prisoner of conscience was released Wednesday under a general amnesty announced two days earlier, a human rights lawyer told AFP.

Tens of thousands of other detainees held under Syria's controversial anti-terror law remain imprisoned despite the amnesty.

"Raneem Maatuq has been released; I spoke with her a little while ago," lawyer Michel Shammas told AFP.

Raneem is the daughter of Khalil Maatuq, a prominent Syrian lawyer, who is still being held in one of the country's notorious security branches.

Her release comes two days after President Bashar al-Assad announced a wide-ranging amnesty, which was unprecedented because it pledged pardon for people sentenced under a July 2012 anti-terror law that has seen tens of thousands jailed over the course of the revolt.

Earlier Wednesday, state news agency SANA announced the release of 274 people from central Damascus prison, also known as Adra jail.

SANA did not specify when the prisoners were released, but described them as "a first batch" of people released under the amnesty.

Shammas said he did not know whether any other prominent activists have been released.

Meanwhile, lawyer Anwar al-Bunni published on his Facebook page: "This evening, only four women detainees were released from Adra jail, among them Raneem Maatuq."

Shammas and other rights defenders have said the implementation of the amnesty deal has been lacking in transparency.

Shammas earlier told AFP: "We have no news of prominent detainees like (journalist) Mazen Darwish", whose release was also expected.

The amnesty is unprecedented because it extends for the first time to those accused under anti-terror legislation, under which tens of thousands of peaceful dissidents, like Darwish, and armed rebels have been held.

The regime has systematically branded armed and unarmed dissidents of being "foreign-backed terrorists".

A day after the decree was announced, state television showed dozens of prisoners being freed in Hama in central Syria.

But rights activists have demanded that the amnesty include all detainees, whose numbers exceed 100,000, including more than 50,000 held without charge in security branches.





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