Last updated: 23 October, 2013

Syria frees 16 women detainees after hostage deal

Syrian authorities have released 16 women detainees as part of a weekend hostage exchange but more than 100 others are still being held, a prominent human rights activist said Wednesday.

Nine Lebanese Shiite hostages held for 17 months by a rebel group in northern Syria were exchanged on Saturday for two Turkish pilots abducted in Lebanon in August.

The release of scores of female detainees held in regime jails formed part of the deal brokered by Turkey, Qatar and Lebanon.

“Two of the women whose names were on the list were freed (Wednesday), a day after 14 others were released,” activist Sema Nassar told AFP.

“For their own safety, they will have to leave the country.”

The women were on a list of 128 names of female detainees handed to the Syrian authorities as part of the exchange deal, she added.

Among them was a cancer patient who had been imprisoned twice before and whose husband has been killed in Syria’s 31-month-old conflict, said Nassar.

Another of those freed had been imprisoned “because her uncle is a dissident and her father is a dissident lawyer,” said Nassar.

The rest were humanitarian activists, two of whom never faced trial.

There has been no official comment in Damascus on the detainees.

Tens of thousands of people are being held by the Syrian regime, many of them without trial, activists say. Rights groups say torture and ill-treatment are systematic in Syria’s jails.