Last updated: 11 June, 2014

Top Syrian activists remain jailed despite amnesty

Prominent activists accused of “terrorism” by Syrian authorities remain in jail despite the announcement of a wide-ranging amnesty two days ago, a rights lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.

“We are waiting for the releases, but none of the prominent activists has yet been set free. There is no transparency in this amnesty process,” said human rights lawyer Michel Shammas.

Earlier Wednesday, Syrian 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 decree.

Shammas meanwhile said: “State media has announced a significant number, but we don’t know whether they are being amnestied under the decree, which pardons people accused under the anti-terror law.”

He also said “we have no news of prominent detainees like (journalist) Mazen Darwish”, whose release was expected under the decree.

The amnesty is unprecedented because it extends for the first time to those accused under sweeping anti-terror legislation passed in July 2012, 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, including more than 50,000 held without charge in Syria’s notorious security branches.