Syria frees 672 prisoners ahead of Eid al-Fitr
Authorities gathered the detainees and released them from the al-Baath Party branch in the capital Damascus after justice minister Hisham al-Sha'ar met with them and gave a speech. Photograph: (Reuters)
A total of 672 detainees were released from Syrian prisons on Saturday, a day ahead of the Eid al-Fitr feast.
State news agency SANA said the detainees were from several Syrian provinces, adding that they were released after pledging "not to carry out any act that undermines the safety of the homeland."
Authorities gathered the detainees and released them from the al-Baath Party branch in the capital Damascus after justice minister Hisham al-Sha'ar met with them and gave a speech.
Inside the complex, each detainee carried his identification card and other related documentation in a plastic pack, and al-Sha'ar said their release was "a real chance to think again and re-embrace the homeland".
"The released detainees can go back to their homes instead of celebrating the Eid al-Fitr in jail. But this does not mean they are totally out of legal duty. They can think about their actions at home, then maybe they will find the truth and figure out why they were deluded," said al-Sha'ar.
Some of them have spent more than three years in prison, while others only a few months, depending on the charges.
The government usually releases some detainees, mostly with misdemeanours or jailed for political reasons, ahead of the Eid occasion.
Political opposition has repeatedly urged the government to release what it said were tens of thousands of detainees, who were captured against the backdrop of the six-year war.
In February, Amnesty International accused the Syrian authorities of hanging thousands of prisoners and dumping bodies in mass graves in the notorious military prison of Saydnaya, which has been repeatedly denied by government officials including President Bashar al-Assad.