Syrian prisoner swap continues with the release of 61 women

BEIRUT — Dozens of female detainees were quietly freed by Syrian authorities, activists and a lawyer said Thursday, the latest in a three-way prisoner exchange made more remarkable because rival factions largely oppose any bartered deals in the civil war.

Simultaneously, a Syrian court ordered the release of Tal al-Mallohi, a prominent young Syrian blogger who was convicted of spying for a foreign country, said her Damascus-based lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni.

The 61 women were released Wednesday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Around a dozen were released at dawn, the rest in the evening, the group said.


Most of them were released from Damascus’s central prison and from lockups in military compounds, Bunni said, citing information from human rights lawyers.

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Bunni and the rights group said the release was part of a complicated hostage swap last week brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority.

In the deal, Syrian rebels freed nine Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims, while Lebanese gunmen simultaneously released two Turkish pilots.

Lebanese officials earlier said a third part of the deal called for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to free a number of female detainees to meet the rebels’ demands. Lebanese officials weren’t available for comment Thursday.

Syrian officials would not comment. They typically do not acknowledge having any contact, directly or indirectly, with Syrian rebels in the civil war, apparently worried it would tacitly acknowledge their legitimacy.


‘‘They are embarrassed,’’ said Bunni.

Warring factions have quietly agreed to prisoner swaps and even truces from time to time, even though both sides have so far held off on any negotiations that would end the conflict. The Syrian uprising has killed tens of thousands, devastated the country, and caused about one-third of Syria’s 23 million people to flee their homes.

It was not immediately clear if Mallohi was part of the broader prisoner swap.

Bunni said the blogger’s prison sentence had ended two months ago.