Fate of Syria detainees unclear after hostage deal

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 20 Oct 2013

10/20/2013 12:12 GMT

BEIRUT, October 20, 2013 (AFP) - The fate of dozens of Syrian women detainees who were to be freed in exchange for nine released Lebanese hostages was unknown on Sunday.

On Saturday, the nine Lebanese Shiite pilgrims kidnapped 17 months ago by rebels in northern Syria were set free, as were two Turkish pilots taken hostage in Lebanon in August, as part of an exchange mediated by Beirut and Doha.

Lebanese authorities repeatedly thanked Damascus Saturday for accepting the rebels' demand to set free 100 to 200 women detainees held in regime jails.

A day earlier, Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel had said a senior security official who secured the deal would hand over a list of some 200 names of women detainees to Damascus, and that the Syrian authorities were "cooperating very well" on the issue.

But since then there has been no official word on whether the Syrian women have been set free, and Syrian authorities have made no statements on the matter.

Several Lebanese officials speaking to national broadcasters have given reporters the same answer, claiming the women "are supposed to have been set free."

Sources close to the negotiations said the women were supposed to have been put on planes from Damascus to Turkey on Sunday.

But Syrian activists, including several in Turkey, said they had no news of the women's arrival.

"There is no confirmed information" on whether the women have indeed been released, said Syrian human rights activist Sema Nassar.

"I think it's just going to be rumours until we have something solid. What's noteworthy is any media that supports the Syrian government doesn't even mention the women detainees," said another activist, Rami Jarrah.

London-based Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that "122 women detainees have been set free... as part of the three-way exchange," but did not provide further details.

Lebanese independent television channel LBC also said the women detainees have been set free.

Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said "the Syrian authorities have set free 158 women detainees, and gave them the choice to travel wherever they wanted."

The paper also said the Syrian rebel Northern Storm brigade, which had held the Lebanese hostages for 17 months, "received 100 million euros" as part of the deal.

Tens of thousands of people are being detained by the Syrian regime, many of them without trial, activists say.

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